Auckland Election: Asian Candidates' Policies

With the local elections in Auckland just days away, candidates for both mayoral and council posts are doing the rounds in their communities to rally up final votes. Asia Media Centre talks to some of them about their policies and how they would like to represent Asian diaspora communities in Auckland. 

Aucklanders of Asian ethnicity make up a significant population of New Zealand’s largest city – 28.2 percent of Auckland's total population ­– but candidates from Asian backgrounds don’t get as much time in mainstream media as their counterparts.

In fact, some Aucklanders only know of the Asian candidates because of news coverage of their billboards being vandalised earlier in their campaigns. Where do they stand on policy, and what issues do they think are most important to Asian diaspora communities in 2022?

AMC spoke to four candidates.

Raymond Tan – for councillor (North Shore ward)

Like many Asians, I have been told to return to my home country even though I have lived in New Zealand for 31 years. Recently I was told I am not 'Kiwi enough' at one of the ‘Meet your Candidates” public sessions. I've yet to find an answer of what 'being Kiwi' actually means. Perhaps, only that person that made the comment actually knows and that would be the same for the people responsible for vandalising the billboards who have in their minds, valid and just reasons for destroying other people's property.

There will always be individuals and parts of society that will never change their behaviours or perceptions contrary to the norms of the wider community. Instead of targeting these offenders, I believe efforts should instead be focused at creating an environment that embraces multiculturalism and to create a sense of belonging by everyone in the community regardless of where they were born, their ancestry and beliefs. 

Externally I would like to initiate a cultural development strategy (separated economic strategy) that specifically focuses on the promotion of ethnic pluralism where diversity of cultures, religions, and customs are celebrated through council funded events and within council facilities across the region. Getting together to celebrate would help address a lack of awareness or eliminate misinformation that creates cultural biases and negative societal perceptions of Asians.  

Internally I would also advocate breaking through the 'bamboo ceiling' or 'glass ceiling' within Auckland Council by removing the stereotyping and the model minority connotations that talented Asian individuals should not hold leadership positions, contrary to an organisation that promotes diversity and inclusion.  Institutional biases are not unique to the Council where across the entire Group of over 10,000 staff there are just a handful of Tier 4 managers of Asian descent, none at the higher management levels. 

At a minimum, the workforce should reflect or closely resemble the demographics of Auckland both in terms of age and ethnicity of the general population. This approach can also be implemented through the council’s sustainability procurement policies. 

It would take more than just a Chinese Language Week to resolve these systemic issues.  Acceptance of Asian diaspora communities is more than just organising festivals, going to Asian restaurants/takeaways or cooking Asian meals occasionally, it is about enabling the diversity of thought and values at the discussion table. 

Having a strong representation on the Council, Local Boards and Senior management would be a good start to breaking down those barriers for social inclusion and counter the anti-Asian behaviours to create a more harmonious environment and benefit our future generations, while at the same time, enhance our international reputation and economic sustainability as the preferred trading partner with Asia as well as a safe place people to study, work and perhaps stay a bit longer. 

Paul Young – for councillor (Howick ward)  

I have lived in East Auckland for past 33 years thanks to my parents who brought me here and I now have two children who were born and raised in Auckland. I call them ABC, Auckland Born Chinese. Aotearoa is our home.

This is my 8th time standing in the elections in past 12 years and over that time I have witnessed a disappointing increase in vandalism and the threat to community safety. We all have the right to feel safe when going about our daily lives, at work and at home. Myself and Bo Burns recently spoke of advocating for a regional safety plan to address these issues, that would be implemented at a local level. 

We would like to work with the Local Boards to advocate for more CCTV cameras in the areas of high risk, as well as working with the police and community patrols to have more presence in the community. I stand as a strong voice representing the Asian community and would like to recommend every Asian votes as it’s the only way to ensure we are well represented and our voice is heard.

Hu Hong (Robert) – for mayor  

My campaign policies deliver my perception of love (aroha in te reo), which consists of five key components: Accountability of Representation, Responsibly Governance, Opportunities for all, Housing Acceleration and Action. 

In terms of the Asian communities, I have always included their well-being while working on my policies. I want to represent each voice, part of which is the voice of Asians. They are disproportionately underrepresented, and their voices are silent in general. I would love to create more opportunities for all, including Asians, given that minorities need dedicated efforts and support to survive post-pandemic Auckland.

Moreover, many [threats during the campaign period] have targeted Asians. For instance, the billboard incident demonstrated that Asians want to ensure [other] Asians are well protected and treated. It is vital to deal with increasing crime; were the only targets. It reveals Auckland needs more representation and policies to include minority communities.

Also, education for all New Zealanders will result in the inclusion and democratic promotion of minorities. Speaking of one of the biggest concerns of Aucklanders, housing is also important to Asians. Better management of housing addresses the housing crisis. It offers more affordable houses for talented young people, including Asians. There will be a research-based project undertaken. Keeping talents in Auckland is crucial to the prosperity of Auckland.

Last but not least, I care about what I say. However, taking action is fundamental to me. I would be more about what I can serve. Had I not been meaningfully involved in the local election process, Asian communities would remain invisible to New Zealand. My candidacy for mayor of Auckland is an example of the practice of Clause 3 of New Zealand's local government Act 2002, which encourages the recognition of the diversity of New Zealand communities and reflects the true sense of Western democratic elections. My participation is a powerful voice that Asians matter. I care. I really care!

Morgan Xiao – for councillor (Howick ward)

This year I believe Asian Aucklanders share the same grave concerns with other Aucklanders, such as public security, economy, traffic, and more.

But for the Asian community, discrimination is also a seriously important issue. The vandalization of Asian candidates' billboards was not a big surprise for me because I realised the discrimination against Asian long ago and I'm actually running on the slogan "Melting Pot Saves Auckland" during this election. I believe Asians are also New Zealanders. I have six policies that I believe could fix Asian discrimination from the root. 

[I want to] put the "social equality of ethnic minorities" as the long-term strategic focus of the Auckland council.

[I want to] promote New Zealand culture to new immigrant communities through community education programs. While keep supporting English education to new immigrant communities, attach additional education on New Zealand values, historical and social knowledge, environmental protection, and democratic political knowledge.

[I want to] improve the multilingual service content of government service departments and websites, and promote the appearance of ethnic minority cultures and characters on the city and even the country’s "name cards" (such as New Zealand dollar notes).

I oppose news reports that are not conducive to ethnic unity, reinforce stereotypes, or divide communities, therefore I would promote policies to encourage English-language media to go deep into ethnic minority communities for more independent news gathering and balanced reporting.

I will continue to support the regular exchange of art and culture, and will also promote the construction of more dialogue platforms, debates, and media programs on ideas, culture, and values among different ethnic communities.

Finally, [I want to] promote the establishment of a sort of "neighbourhood watch mechanism" for public security, disaster rescue, anti-terrorism, and anti-espionage in ethnic minority communities, and strengthen cooperation with relevant government agencies to promote national security and community trust.

 - Asia Media Centre