Council's cultural survey offends

BACK TRACK: A council survey of residents near Northcote Shopping Centre has been withdrawn.
BACK TRACK: A council survey of residents near Northcote Shopping Centre has been withdrawn.

Residents and a veteran politician have taken offence with a council survey.

Households near Northcote Shopping Centre were sent a form asking questions about how "coldly" or "warmly" they viewed people from "different cultural backgrounds".

But after receiving complaints the survey was racist, the council withdrew the bilingual, nine-page questionnaire which went out to 20,000 residents in Northcote and Balmoral.

North Shore councillor George Wood says many people who complained to him about the survey say the questions "tended towards racist intent".

Northcote has worked very hard to bring a good level of harmony between its ethnically diverse population, he says.

But Dean Wilson, a management consultant for the shopping centre who was notified by council researchers about the questionnaire, says its intent wasn't to fan racist views.

"It helps us understand the immigration and ethnic mix that is impacting and benefiting the Northcote town centre," he says.

Asian-run businesses make up 75 per cent of Northcote Shopping Centre, making them "vitally important" to the wider community, Wilson says.

Apart from balking at the $18,000 cost of distributing and retracting the survey, respondent Rod Kallenberg, says it was poorly executed.

"I might understand where they're trying to go but they didn't use the appropriate words," he says.

Kallenberg, who lives near the shopping centre, exemplifies many Northcote residents' shifting attitudes towards migrants.

"Half the shops were empty before the Asians arrived. We've got no problem with them. What would happen to Northcote without them now?" he says.

Massey University sociologist professor Paul Spoonley says similar wording has been used by the The New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study and the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

"Should we be asking questions about other ethnicities - absolutely! We need to know how we see each other."

North Shore Times