Local Chinese probably turned off Labour - expert

Phil Twyford's electorate office in Auckland (Dan Satherley/3 News)
Phil Twyford's electorate office in Auckland (Dan Satherley/3 News)

The Labour Party is being warned it can expect a drop in support from Chinese voters over its controversial attack on foreign property investment.

Finance Minister Bill English has been meeting with officials in China, and says there were concerns raised about the hard-edged nature of Labour's comments.

Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford kicked off the debate just over a week ago, claiming leaked data on Auckland house sales showed a significant number were being sold to offshore buyers in China. He based this conclusion on the percentage of Chinese-sounding surnames on the buyer list, compared to census data on the local Chinese population.

"There were a few comments about the tone, that it seemed more hard-edged than in most places," Mr English said yesterday.

Auckland University associate professor and foreign policy expert Stephen Hoadley says the party's reputation with the Chinese community in New Zealand has taken a hit, but it might not matter too much at the ballot box.

"I think there's no doubt it will have a negative impact," he told RadioLIVE.

"Whether it will be substantial or not is another question. National leads Labour by a factor of two-to-one – Labour could hardly go down further."

Labour leader Andrew Little has defended the use of last names as a basis for determining the ethnicity of buyers, and Mr Twyford insists his data and conclusions about Auckland are correct.

Even if he turns out to be right, Prof Hoadley says Labour could have delivered its message with more tact.

"In retrospect, the Labour leaders would have done it a little bit differently – they probably didn't anticipate the kind of publicity they would get, the kind of backlash that they would get."

Mr Little yesterday said calling the party's stance racist was "how a debate gets out of control".

Recent polling by Roy Morgan and Colmar Brunton suggests Labour's strategy is yet to find much traction with voters.

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