New Delhi, Dec 7: New Zealand envoy Joanna Kempkers on Thursday said that Hindi is now the “fourth most-spoken” language in her country, stressing on the growing cultural and people-to-people ties between New Zealand and India.

Kempers at an event in New Delhi said, “We both share common values, such as commonwealth heritage and democracy. And, also, the common language i.e., English and now also Hindi.”

“In fact, Hindi is now the fourth most-spoken language. Also, we have about 1,85,000 people belonging to the Indian community, who are living in New Zealand and they are contributing to the growth story of our country,” Kempkers said. She also emphasised that the inflow of Indian tourists to New Zealand and the number of students going there are “on the rise”.

Speaking to PTI  on the sidelines of the the New Zealand-India Sustainability Challenge 2017, she said, “In 2016, the number of Indian tourists who visited New Zealand stood at 58,000 while the corresponding figure from New Zealand to India was 66,000. Besides, the place is also attracting Bollywood.”

Bollywood actor Kriti Sanon was signed up by Education New Zealand, a government agency for international education as its brand ambassador a few months back. Kempkers said, “We offer 35 scholarships to students (applying for our universities) and after Kriti tweeted about it, the number of application went up dramatically. So, we feel the connect.”

Education New Zealand’s Regional Director – India, South East Asia and Middle East, John Laxon also endorsed the rise in the influx of students applying to universities in New Zealand and said, “Indian students are increasingly choosing to study in New Zealand. For the Januart-October period this year, there has been a 24 per cent increase in student visas, compared to the corresponding period last year.”

In tourism sector, Kempkers said, people are choosing New Zealand as wedding destinations, shooting locales, and even corporate groups are sending employees for recreational tours there.

The population of New Zealand stands at about 4.5 million, Laxon said and the Indian community forms about 4 per cent of it.

“There are people hailing from different parts of India, who reside in the country, and so they speak, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, and other languages,” the envoy added.