Monday, 6 May 2013


i want you to read this story that appears on the front page of this morning's waikato times.  you don't have to read the whole thing, just the first half is sufficient.  i'm wondering if you notice what i notice.

the story is about some houses being built in a residential area, and the neighbours fearing the houses will be used for student accommodation.  it's a valid concern.  as the story says: "In residential areas, a residential centre or hostel would require resource consent."  of course, one of the main concerns of the neighbours is the potential drop in property values if apartments start springing up in the neighbourhood.  it's fair enough to be worried about issues of congestion.  the excess rubbish, though?  rubbish gets picked up on rubbish collection day & until then will stay inside the property.

notice how i have covered the main issue, and i could have written that whole article, without once having used the word "chinese".  but this article has that word in it twice, once in relation to the developers and the second time in relation to the potential students who might be renting the home.

i fail to understand how ethnicity is at all relevant to this whole issue.  i can't imagine what difference it would make if the students were chinese or any other ethnicity, in terms of the issue of congestion or excess rubbish.  but would the property values go down faster if they were chinese students as opposed to those of european heritage?  is the provision of housing to chinese students a worse crime than letting to other ethnicities.

similarly, i fail to understand why the ethnicity of the developer is any way relevant to the story.  it's yet another example of the threat of yellow peril.  another example of where ethnicity is used, when it definitely wouldn't have been had the developer had european heritage.  it's yet another example of the use of ethnicity to create a narrative, an othering that is completely unnecessary.

the whole issue of student housing is especially relevant to me as i've just been dealing with a similar case last week.  a couple came to visit me last friday with exactly the same situation but in an entirely different neighbourhood.  they live down a shared right of way, and the owner of the neighbouring property is altering the home in  what looks like a similar manner.  while the owners claim that the home will be rented to 2 families at the most, the rental they have advertised in the local school newspaper is way beyond what can be expected from that kind of property.  it only makes sense if the property is rented out to students or single working people.

for the couple that came to see me, the main issues are around traffic.  there isn't enough room on their neighbours property to fit more than 2 cars & the shared driveway with increased traffic puts their very young children at risk.  it would be impossible for cars to get out of the neighbours property without backing onto their own property.  congestion is definitely an issue.

this couple explained all this to me, and i don't know (though i'm sure they do) the ethnicity of the owner, nor was their any talk about the ethnicity of potential tenants.  maybe because they saw my brown face and thought better of it, or more likely because it just. didn't. matter.  the issues are serious enough without having to put in a "scary" ethnicity component to try to make it sound worse.

i'll be keeping an eye on the situation as regards the couple that came to see me, and doing what i can to help them.  i just wish our media could stick to the issues and stop with the unnecessary ethnic othering.


Rust Beast said...

The developer's ethnicity may not be relevant, but his passport is. When people complain about 'Chinese developers' they are often not concerned about the ownership of land by people of Chinese descent, but are against foreign ownership of NZ land. Is it possible this is the sense in which the concerns about 'Chinese developers' were meant?

No excuse for 'Chinese students', though.

stargazer said...

But the story makes no mention of "passports". So again, irrelevant. And isn't it funny that the concerns over foreign ownership are so much more vocal when it's Chinese, but not so much when it's European or American nationals.

Rust Beast said...

Yes, it is funny, which is why I am reluctant to support the 'no foreign ownership of land' thing.

And you're right, the article isn't clear either way. But I think it's possible that that's what they mean. Describing someone as 'Chinese' could mean a whole bunch of different things.

I mean, if I see people complaining about 'American conservatism' I don't assume they are making a racist attack on people of American descent, even though they aren't specific.

stargazer said...

i'm not particularly interested in what they might possibly mean. this wasn't a story about foreign ownership, it's a story about complying with regulations & bylaws. in that context, ethnicity & even nationality is irrelevant.

and your example about "american conservatism" isn't relevant, unless you're meaning to imply that all americans are conservative, in which case yes, it would be a bigoted statement. it wouldn't be racist, because "american" isn't a race.