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An Open Letter from NZ Race Relations Commissioner


An Open Letter from NZ Race Relations Commissioner

An Open Letter to New Zealand Citizens and Residents, Students, Tourists, Business People and Other Visitors of Asian Nationality or Descent in New Zealand. An Open Letter to New Zealand Citizens and Residents, Students, Tourists, Business People and Other Visitors of Asian Nationality or Descent in New Zealand.

Joris de Bres, Race Relations Commissioner

I trust I speak for the majority of New Zealanders when I say you are highly valued as citizens and residents or as visitors to this country.

Asian people have long been a part of New Zealand society, being among the earliest people to come here to live and work after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by New Zealand Maori and the British Crown in 1840.

For many years, there was legal discrimination against Asian people settling here permanently. Discrimination was not limited to Asians. It took other forms, for example, in the confiscation of land from Maori New Zealanders and in actively discouraging the use of their language and the exercise of their culture. There have been discriminatory restrictions on immigration from other countries, even our close neighbours in the Pacific Islands. Thankfully, that is now in the past, and we are working to remedy past injustices.

There are still people in New Zealand today who say Asian people are unwelcome. They are vocal and widely reported in our news media. They have the right to say what they think and feel, but it is disappointing when they exercise our highly valued freedom of speech in an irresponsible way that is hurtful to innocent people. Similar things have been said in the past about Irish people, European people, Jewish people and Pacific Island people. And yet all of these have settled in New Zealand and have helped to make New Zealand the diverse and prosperous country it is today.

Our country is a Maori and a multicultural society. Our modern culture was first a blend of Maori and British, and it has subsequently been enriched by cultures from all over the world, especially from continental Europe, the Pacific Islands and Asia.

The descendents of early settlers from Asia have been spectacularly successful in New Zealand, achieving highly in education, in the professions, in the public service and in commerce.

Today, New Zealand is derives many benefits from its Asian neighbours.

We benefit from new Asian migrants who are selected from applicants from throughout the world on the basis of their skill and their potential contribution to New Zealand. We would not be able to sustain our economy without the help of new migrants.

We benefit from Asian tourists who come here to experience our beautiful scenery. They provide jobs for thousands of New Zealanders.

We benefit from Asian students who come here to attend our schools and universities. The tuition fees they pay help to sustain our education system and provide income for those who offer accommodation and services.

We benefit from Asian business people who invest in our industries, help our businesses to be competitive and provide jobs for New Zealanders.

We benefit from trade with Asia, both from the many goods we purchase (our cars, our televisions, our computers, our clothes, and so much else), and the products we are able to sell. Many New Zealanders also visit Asian countries as tourists, to experience the warmth, the scenery and the many cultures.

You are welcome in New Zealand for all these reasons, but also because you enrich our culture, our understanding of and contact with the variety of the world’s peoples and our understanding of ourselves. To the extent that we need new migrants, people from Asia are welcome on the same basis as people from everywhere else in the world.

The rapid increase in migrants, tourists, students and other visitors from Asia over recent years is a new experience for us, and it has created some pressures, but we have been through similar experiences people from other continents and regions before. Sometimes it can be difficult to communicate, but if we all make the effort that can be overcome.

We would like you to learn about us – our Maori, European, Pacific Island, Asian and other cultures, and to teach us about the many different Asian cultures that you represent. Cross-cultural communication can be difficult, especially when we don’t speak each other’s languages very well. We both need to reach out to and be prepared to educate each other if we are going to cross those barriers. We want to live together in New Zealand, not separately.

We hope you will not be discouraged if you hear some people say thoughtless and unkind things about you. They hurt us as well as hurting you. Please don’t think we all think that way.

We hope you will enjoy your stay in New Zealand, whether it be temporary or permanent, that you will recognize the familiar faces of Asian New Zealanders, that you will feel welcome and at home and want to stay or come and visit us again.

If you are interested in information about your rights, or if you wish to make a complaint of discrimination, please call the Human Rights Commission InfoLine on 0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS / 0800 496 877.

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