Chinese sounding names revisited

In 2015 Labour got blasted for their claims that data of Chinese-sounding-names proved some point about housing. Most of what I remember is the mess Labour made of it.

Russell Brown has some new information on this that looks bad for both Labour and for the media that ran their story.

At Public Address – Harkanwal Singh: What really happened with those Chinese-sounding-names

The 2015 publication of what has become known as the the “Chinese-sounding-names” story on Auckland home ownership was, says Harkanwal Singh, “a really pivotal moment for me, working in a New Zealand newsroom. Because that’s when I realised that things don’t have to be true to be published.”

Singh was working as the New Zealand Herald’s first dedicated data journalist and was at the meeting where Labour Party MP Phil Twyford and party researcher Rob Salmond brought in their data – which they said showed a hitherto unsuspected level of Chinese foreign ownership in Auckland housing.

“They said ‘we’re not being racist’ as they handed over the data set,” he told Jogai Bhatt and I at last Sunday’s Orcon IRL.

Singh’s questions over the data delayed publication by a week. During that week he contacted Auckland University’s Thomas Lumley and Edward Abraham of Dragonfly Data Science (“the best statisticians in the country”).

“And I went back to my editors and I said, look, you should publish it, but you should say that Labour is saying this – and the statisticians are saying that it’s not true.”

His suggestion was not taken up by his editors.

“The story ran with the headline ‘We have Chinese buyers’ and and all I did was add some bullet points which said ‘this data is wrong’. But they were published on the fifth page, inside, in a little box, so no one really saw them.

“It was hugely problematic and as a immigrant and as a person of colour, I saw a huge problem with it. But no one else in the newsroom saw any problem with it. And when I approached senior journalists I was told ‘it’s a great story’.

“I think it’s still not been addressed and no one’s really addressed how they went about doing it. And it’s a huge issue of data literacy if you’re just going to publish analysis done by political parties for their own goals.”

Concerns of a data expert were ignored in the race to make headlines. This is a stain on the Herald as well as on Labour.

Video of the whole interview:

While this was poorly done by Labour and by the Herald there could be valid concerns about who was buying and financing properties that stoke the price surge.

James Ting-Edwards in comments:

Attachment

Among the sad parts of this story is that the “foreign money” conversation could have happened without anti-migrant language or dog-whistles.

David Hood had a good go at telling that story here (with the graph above), drawing on data to show a divergence between the rise in NZ house values and domestic borrowing. That “magic money” came from somewhere, and is a legitimate domestic policy target regardless of its source in terms of countries, geopolitics, or cultural ties.

He quotes a key paragraph:

Is all the magic money offshore capital? We just don’t know. There is a lack of evidence of it coming from other parts inside the New Zealand economy, and given the hundreds of billions of dollars, a local source would be somewhat obvious. We also know that in other countries, with more internal housing markets, household debt does not just match the pattern of house value, the amounts add up to the same in gains. In New Zealand there is a 300 billion shortfall.

Proper investigations by Labour and the media may have found the answers.

Instead they went for dog whistling using dodgy data.

Phil twyford is now Minister of Housing, and NZ Herald continues to promote click bait headlines and sack journalists.

29 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  November 25, 2017

    Hey, Blazer. About that quiet money I told you was going south…..

  2. Blazer

     /  November 25, 2017

    as the Vancouver report stated the Govt do not want the data.Anyone who attended a house auction in Auckland in the last 8 years would confirm the majority of bidders looked distinctly..Asian.

    • David

       /  November 25, 2017

      Because there are a lot of Asian NZers in Auckland firstly and they generally work hard, save hard and like to invest in property. If you go to the viaduct at 3am generally you wont see many asians falling out of the bars, not saying they are all at home saving their pennies but they have different priorities in life.

      • Blazer

         /  November 25, 2017

        do they generally have…chinese sounding surnames too…given you are making generalisations!

        • David

           /  November 25, 2017

          I would have thought so if they emigrated here they would have kept their surnames. 23.1% of Aucklands population is Asian which is a big percentage

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  November 25, 2017

            My Chinese bridesmaid’s family has been in NZ for several generations more than mine.

            Many names like Ching (Cornish) and Ling sound Chinese but aren’t. There are people called Noda in the Waikato; a Japanese ancestor was called Noda, but the Nodas are Maori, as are the Subritzkys.

    • Missy

       /  November 25, 2017

      “…majority of bidders looked distinctly..Asian.”

      Proving what?

      My NZ born cousin, who’s family on her fathers side has been in NZ since 1843 looks ‘distinctly…Asian’.

      A guy I went to University with who’s family has been in NZ since the 1850’s looks ‘distinctly…Asian’.

      A friend of mine who’s family has been in NZ since the 1880’s looks ‘distinctly…Asian’.

      Tell me Blazer, would you suggest that these people are all ‘foreign buyers’ based solely on how they look? That is an incredibly racist thing to imply.

      Some Chinese families have been in NZ longer than many British and European families, you cannot look at someone and assume where they are from based on how they look, it is just racist – and stupid.

      • Fight4NZ

         /  November 25, 2017

        You know 3 people who are kiwi asians so the whole assertion is racist. That’s not absurd at all.
        It is simply a fact that born and bred Chinese have dominated the house buying in Auckland for at leasy 10years until around a year ago. They have been the majority in auction rooms in person or by proxy and had obvious buying power beyond the resources of locals of any ethnicity. It is a fact here as it has been a fact around the world.
        So actually the only choice is take the money and evangelise a free market myth or have the moral fortitude to hold on to the principle that local people should be first in line to live in and own local homes. Same as applies in China funnily enough.

        • Missy

           /  November 26, 2017

          You seem to have either missed – or deliberately misunderstood – my point. My point is that to assume that people who turn up to an auction who look ‘distinctly asian’ as Blazer put it are foreign Chinese buyers is racist, and wrong. Many Kiwis are of asian descent, many whose families have been in NZ for well over 100 years. I gave 3 examples, that does not mean I only know ‘3 people who are kiwi asians’ it means I gave 3 examples of where someone like Blazer would look at the person at an auction and make the assumption they are foreign buyers from China and are, as some on here have (erroneously and without evidence) alleged, laundering money illegally gained in China. Racism around this issue is rife, wrapped up prettily in Nationalism and the promise of bringing down house prices and suggesting that foreigners shouldn’t buy houses in NZ – even though the only foreigners people talk about are Chinese, Labour showed their true xenophobic colours in the chinese name debacle. Or was that just Phil Twyford who was xenophobic?

          What do you base your assertion and ‘born and bred Chinese have dominated the house buying in Auckland for at least 10 years until around a year ago’ on? Do you have actual evidence of this? Or are you (like many) basing it on hearsay, chinese names, and the look of those at auctions?

          • Fight4NZ

             /  November 26, 2017

            So much racism.
            Now you get Kiwis who insist on Chinese origin only Real Estate agents to sell their properties. That way they get maximum promotion into those communities and therefore good numbers to the auctions so higher prices. So racist against local agents.
            Some kiwis reckon they can walk into a room and tell whether it is full of Americans, Irish, Turks, Chinese, Somalis or even Japanese. How racist is that?
            I found the only way to tell someone was not a local originally was when they could casually bid 30% or much more over market valuation because they obviously couldn’t do that on local incomes.

      • Blazer

         /  November 26, 2017

        Especially at RE auctions ,when they have narrow eyes,speak chinese,and have chinese sounding surnames,I always think they are …chinese.

        • Missy

           /  November 26, 2017

          you mentioned looks Blazer, not what language they speak. And your description is rather offensive, I have family that – as you say – ‘have narrow eyes, speak chinese, have chinese sounding surnames’ but they are not Chinese by birth, only by ethnicity, they are kiwis by birth. Pull your head in and stop with the racist comments and blatant xenophobia.

          • Blazer

             /  November 26, 2017

            nothing racist,nothing xenophobic about …common sense…if it looks like a duck…etc…you are entitled to think so…until evidence to the contrary..you need to get off your P.C trip.

  3. David

     /  November 25, 2017

    Disgraceful behaviour from both parties and they would be the first to condemn if anyone else did it.
    The article from Hood assumes that debt and house values increase at the same amount and his conclusion when they dont is foreign money is a little absurd. People pay off their mortgages, dont automatically borrow more when their house values increase, return to NZ with savings, switch from dodgy finance company investments to bricks and mortar and a myriad other things to explain the change before we rush off and blame Jonny Foreigner.

    • Blazer

       /  November 25, 2017

      it has both good and bad side effects for property speculators as you are…aware.Once homes were for families to live…in.

      • David

         /  November 25, 2017

        You need a certain amount of speculation as its a pillar of the market but Auckland got totally out of control and unless the council is forced to get growth friendly when the RBNZ restrictions comes off same stupid shit will happen at the expense of families.
        Christchurch opened vast areas for new developments and was forced to cater for longer term growth by Brownlee,s powers and we have flat prices and families can buy homes, Key should have over rode Auckland council and done the same.

        • Blazer

           /  November 25, 2017

          ‘You need a certain amount of speculation as its a pillar of the market ‘…do tell!This your own…thesis I take it.

        • Fight4NZ

           /  November 25, 2017

          Why should Auckland Council get growth friendly as you describe it?. The Govt should override the Council?
          So democracy should be ignored? Aucklanders consistently voting to attempt to preserve the much vaunted highest quality of life in the world doesn’t count. Their clear rejection of a string of right wing puppets can be ignored. As can demand and any attempt to address that obvious cause of the problem.
          No, 100,000’s of new arrivals to Auckland with Real Estate industry backing should decide the future, not those who have lived and payed rates there for decades or generations. Especially when the govt’s economic policy is built on population growth alone.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  November 25, 2017

            Because wrecking the housing market harms ordinary people. But Lefties don’t care about that so long as they are in control spouting aspirational inanities.

            • Blazer

               /  November 25, 2017

              the housing’ market’..herein lies the problem,a market artificially inflated as a parasitical trading platform ,instead of homes to house …families.

            • Fight4NZ

               /  November 25, 2017

              Homes to house families. Righties dont care about that as long as they’ve got out of control migration and house price inflation by which they can line their pockets. That’s what they call freedom.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 25, 2017

              Artificially inflated by strangling supply.

            • Blazer

               /  November 25, 2017

              a Ponzi scheme foistered on people compliments of Q.E.

            • Fight4NZ

               /  November 25, 2017

              If you could identify any area of Auckland where supply was reduced? Just 1. Doesn’t have to be big.

            • Fight4NZ

               /  November 25, 2017

              Not a single instance of land removed from availability to build on it in that paper.
              It makes clear it has no intention of dealing with the actual issue from the first paragraph.
              There were plenty of houses for Aucklanders and low inflation with a land supply democratically determined. And what changed that?

            • Fight4NZ

               /  November 25, 2017

              But what a perfect example of National predetermining outcomes. Hilariously they want to accuse Labour of fixing the tax working group.

  4. George

     /  November 25, 2017

    So really who is surprised ??
    It’s just more fake news on Page One and the retraction is on Page Eighteen among the ads

  5. Tipene

     /  November 25, 2017

    The media are firmly ensconced as an enemy of the people. This story simply reinforces their “post truth” ideology.