Must watch: Thai TV Highlights Asians in New Zealand and the Māori Culture

Thai PBS, Thailand's public broadcast network, toured Aotearoa New Zealand to investigate the expanding Asian community, also referred to as Asian-Kiwis. Their feature program, "Spirit of Asia," highlighted the Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono for its role in enhancing ties between New Zealand and Asian nations.

Asian New Zealanders, Generation 1.5 | Spirit of Asia

Nick Siu, the Foundation’s business director, started the discussion with the special relationship of New Zealand to Southeast Asian countries through the establishment of the Colombo Plan.

The Colombo Plan is a regional organisation that was established in 1950 to enhance economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific. New Zealand has been an active member of the Colombo Plan, contributing to its various initiatives and programs. The organisation's focus is on cooperation and partnership among member countries, aiming to promote development, reduce poverty, and improve the quality of life in the region.

Through the Colombo Plan, New Zealand has provided expertise, training, and financial assistance to various projects, emphasising areas like education, health, and infrastructure development. This participation also serves to strengthen New Zealand's relationships with its Asian and Pacific neighbours, aligning with its foreign policy objectives of promoting stability and prosperity in the region.

As Siu said, “New Zealand funded young students to come to New Zealand from Southeast Asia and learn about New Zealand. And a lot of those young students in the 1950 to 1960 period have started and created amazing careers, both in business and politics, back in Asia. So, a lot of them have never forgotten their love for New Zealand from they were students.”

Behind-the-scenes photo at the Asia New Zealand Foundation office. Image: c/o Carla Teng, AMC.

Kiwi-Asian Generation 1.5

Craig Cooper, the Arts Director at the Asia New Zealand Foundation, discusses the Asian demographic in New Zealand, especially those known as Generation 1.5. This group is characterised by individuals who were born in Asia but raised in New Zealand, having been brought there by their parents. They have adapted to the Kiwi way of life while retaining their Asian heritage.

Cooper notes the increasing influence of this blend of Kiwi and Asian cultures in New Zealand's arts scene. He observes that individuals from this generation are maturing into artists, creating innovative works in New Zealand that incorporate elements of their Asian background.

According to Cooper, the infusion of Asian elements into local art is now becoming a recognised part of New Zealand's artistic expression: “You’re now starting to see those people growing up, becoming artist, and they’re starting to create really exciting work themselves, based in New Zealand. But they draw on their Asian identity and their Asian culture. So, ‘Asian work’ is now becoming part of what we would call ‘New Zealand work.’”

Interview with Craig Cooper. Image: c/o Carla Teng, AMC.

Asian Diaspora in Kiwi Sports

Kirsty Sharp, who manages the sports programmes at the Asia New Zealand Foundation, spoke about how sports help migrants in New Zealand feel more at home.

Recently, Asians in New Zealand have been setting up their own sports clubs to meet their specific needs. Sharp believes that sports are really helpful for new people coming to New Zealand to fit in with the local culture.

Now, Asian groups are not only forming their own sports teams, but they are also getting involved in New Zealand’s sports system.

Sports New Zealand is considering how to modify its frameworks to include the diverse ethnic groups arriving in the country. According to Sharp, “it is really important. Sports breaks down so many barriers. We see so many friendships that can be made through sports. Often it is, all you need is a ball, a stick, or something like that – you don’t need to speak the same language, but you can just enjoy playing sports, and it brings people together.

Thai PBS' team interview with Kirsty Sharp. Image: c/o Carla Teng, AMC.

Aside from business, the arts, and sports, the programme also highlighted Thai immigrants' labour in the country and how Thai individuals were able to assimilate in New Zealand. This includes their Buddhist faith, which they are free to practise in Aotearoa.

Another must watch is the special episode on ‘Spirit of Asia’ that focuses on the Māori people in Aotearoa.

The Thai PBS team also sheds light on the ties between the indigenous tribe of Taiwan in Taitung and the Māori, as well as the Austronesian languages that are widespread across Southeast Asia. These include Tagalog, Malay, and Javanese, which are widely spoken in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Maori: From Polynesia to New Zealand | Spirit of Asia

-Asia Media Centre