New Zealand is not a country people associate with racial discrimination, and certainly not with that of Indians, who constitute the second-largest Asian ethnicity after the Chinese, and the country's third-largest minority. Given this context, a controversial advertisement that appeared in a New Zealand publication that spoke badly of Indians should be treated as an isolated case, says the country's foreign affairs ministry.
"We would like to stress that the comments in the report you refer to are reflective of the behaviour of one individual, certainly not all New Zealanders," a spokesperson for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade told IB Times India.
The spokesperson added that more than 1.5 lakh people of Indian descent call New Zealand their home and three of the country's 121 MPs are of Indian origin.
The advertisement — "Flatmates wanted - 'no Indians or Asians'" — published in TradeMe recently for renting out a flat in Christchurch by a person named Alistair, triggered furore among Indians in the country.
Alistair justified the advertisement saying he didn't want to live with people "who cook curry every night" or couldn't speak English, as reported by the New Zealand Herald.
"I don't want to get people turning up and not being able to speak English, or people who cook curry every night. I don't want to come home to a house that smells," Alistair was quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying.
The problem needs to be seen in the context of the country's two islands and their contrasting demograhy.
New Zealand consists of two main islands — the South Island and the North Island. Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island.
Christchurch is predominantly European: a 2006 demographic profile revealed that 75.4% of Christchurch residents called themselves "NZ European" while 7.9% were of Asian origin. This could well be the reason for the controversial advertisement, though it cannot be said definitively.
The North Island, on the other hand, presents a contrasting picture. Consisting of six major cities, including Auckland and the country's capital Wellington, the region is home to many Asians, mainly Indians and Chinese.
Indian was the second-largest Asian ethnic group in the city in the Auckland region in 2013, with 1,55,178 people (32.9% of the Asian ethnic group, up from 29.5% in 2006), according to the country's 2013 Census QuickStats.
This explains why life in Auckland is quite diverse, ethnically speaking, and evokes good feelings from Indians living there.
"I have been here for nearly 23 years. My experience has been very good. People here are very friendly and receptive," said an Indian doctor, who did not wish to be identified.
However, New Zealand feels it's time to treat the advertisement as a wake-up call and face the issue of (racial) discrimination head on.
Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy said that "past discrimination isn't widely talked about in NZ, which is why it's important we do so now."
She also thanked New Zealanders who have spoken out. "We don't need a law to tell us it's wrong and ignorant to stereotype and discriminate against an entire race of people. Giving others a fair go is part of Kiwi culture, but we need to live it not just talk about it," said Devoy.