More than ever, New Zealanders feel it is important to strengthen ties with Asia, especially in the wake of COVID-19, according to a new survey.
Asia New Zealand Foundation's annual report into how we perceive Asia found that, during the pandemic, nearly 80 percent of respondents felt it was important to develop political, economic and social ties with the region.
The New Zealander's Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples survey is in its 23rd year.
The latest survey was conducted in November 2019, but in March, another poll was taken to see how COVID-19 may have affected perceptions.
The foundation's executive director Simon Draper said prior to the pandemic, 67 percent of New Zealanders felt it was important to develop those ties, marking a significant jump since the crisis.
Draper said there was a growing awareness and an increasingly nuanced view of how regional developments in Asia affected New Zealand, including trade agreements, China's Belt and Road initiative and the Indo-Pacific construct.
It benefits New Zealand to be informed about Asia, especially as it becomes the global hub for technology, trade and innovation, Draper said.
A number of factors could be contributing to the public's understanding of the region, including cultural events, a growing Asian diaspora and New Zealanders travelling to the region.
"The discussion groups suggest that for Māori, the desire to connect with Asia comes from social and cultural drivers, even though Māori are overall slightly less supportive of developing close ties with Asia (61 percent) due to concerns such as land ownership and employment," the report said.
The top concern about Asia was its environmental issues. Two out of five respondents felt it could negatively impact New Zealand.