Participation of Asian Population Groups – Research Report

Participation of Asian Population Groups – Researc…
01 May 2023
Powerpoint - Participation of Asian Population Gro…
01 Jun 2023


This report draws upon focus groups with Asian New Zealanders living in Auckland to understand the perceptions, barriers and motivations relating to their own sport and physical activity participation in Aotearoa New Zealand.


In dialogue with Sport NZ, and with ethical approval from the University of Waikato Human Research Ethics Committee, we adopted a strengths-based approach. Such an approach is important, given that much of the survey data and commentary across the sector highlight Asian New Zealanders’ lower rates of participation in sport and active recreation.

According to a Sport New Zealand report published in 2019 from survey data collected the previous year, “young and adult Asians have the lowest weekly participation and spend less time participating in fewer sports and activities”.

While surveys have consistently shown that Asian New Zealanders are among the least active groups in New Zealand society, the issue is complex, nuanced and multilayered. Asian New Zealand communities are growing and evolving rapidly, and research and policy needs to be responsive to such changes.

Sampling approach

To gain insight into such complexities, we formed eight focus groups with already established (formal and informal) sport and/or fitness and community groups within the diverse Asian New Zealand community. Working within the timeframe, we focused specifically on Asian New Zealanders living in the super diverse city of Auckland, specifically targeting groups from North, South, East and West Auckland. This was a sampling strategy to capture some of the diversity of Asian communities across Auckland, but it was not the intention to present comparisons across these regions. Thus, locality does not feature in the analysis.

Our Advisory Group (consisting of key members of the Asian NZ community active in supporting and enabling sport, active recreation and play opportunities for the wider Asian community) was hugely helpful in identifying and inviting these groups to participate, and will hopefully be an asset for future work in this space. They championed the work among the community, and without this support we would not have been able to access such a diverse sample.

Focus groups

Sheryne Lok conducted all the focus group sessions and worked to create culturally respectful environments for participants to share their play, active recreation and sporting experiences. We worked to ensure diversity in sports, physical activities, gender, age and cultural/national backgrounds (see Figures 1 to 4). The data gathering phase was due to take place in February 2023, but with the devastating floods in Auckland causing considerable social, emotional and financial stress among the community, it was important that we practiced utmost respect, patience, flexibility and care in organising the focus groups. Some delays were unavoidable, and some groups who had expressed an interest became unavailable after the floods. In such conditions, additional effort was made to host the focus groups in spaces that were comfortable, familiar and accessible to the group, and at times that were suitable to participants. To create a supportive and safe environment for participants, focus groups were organised with participants of similar age (e.g., teen group; early 20s group), ethnicity (i.e., Japanese group), and/or sport/fitness


Our final sample included 36 Asian New Zealanders currently living in Auckland, New Zealand; 67% female and 33% male (self-identified gender); between 16 and 73 years of age; from 12 different national and ethnic backgrounds: including Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, Fijian-Indian, Chinese Malaysian, Hong Kong Chinese, Chinese Indonesian, Taiwanese, Sri Lankan, and Indian. The Canadian and Fijian participants were both of Asian descent, but identified their original nationality in the demographic survey. Participants engaged in a wide array of sport, active recreation and physical play activities on a regular basis. 

Key Results

  • Asian New Zealand communities are highly diverse and their experiences of play, active recreation and sport vary significantly.
  • Participants enjoyed a wide range of fitness and physical activities, and informal, recreational and competitive sports.
  • Primary motives for participating include: 1) wellbeing, 2) physical health benefits, 3) social aspects, 4) being in nature, 5) family/community aspects.
  • Key barriers to participation include: 1) cost, 2) transport (parking and traffic), 3) access and availability of facilities (particularly for recreational and informal sports), 4) competing priorities (family, work, community, school), 5) language, 6) accessible information about different sport and active recreation offerings in their communities, 7) social barriers (friends to participate with).
  • The motivations, opportunities and barriers for Asian New Zealanders vary considerably based on age, gender, generation and language skills. Intersectionality is key for understanding such complexities.
  • Family plays a key role in support or inhibiting participation.
  • Unconscious bias, racist abuse and xenophobia impacts Asian communities’ experiences of inclusion, belonging and wellbeing in sport and active recreation.
  • Participants identified a number of actions that sports organisations and clubs could do to create more culturally inclusive and supportive environments: more Asian staff across all levels; listen and learn about cultural values and practices (i.e., food, language, events); address unconscious bias.
Page last modified: 21 Mar 2024