150 years since Chinese were invited to New Zealand

August 28 201

This  year, the  New  Zealand  Chinese  Association  (NZCA) celebrates  andcommemorates  the 150th anniversary of  the  first  main  group  of  Chinese businessmen to visit New Zealand at the invitation of the Otago Provincial Council and the Otago Chamber of Commerce. 

In  1865,  the  Otago Provincial  Council  and  the  Otago Chamber of  Commerce twice  invited  Chinese in  Victoria,  Australia  to  come and rework  the  goldfields throughout their region in an effort to support the economic development of their area.  At that time, the goldfields were  falling into a state of  decline due to the easy gold having already been extracted. 

 A few businessmen and miners came soon after hearing the news of a ‘New GoldField’,  and  thousands  followed in  their  footsteps.   Some  of  these Chinese entrepreneurs also set up support services for their fellow countrymen: supplying provisions,  establishing  restaurants,  and starting  money exchange, gold  trading,as well as  laundry and translation services.  Initially this was good  for  the  local region as these hard working Chinese sojourners brought  about  the expected economic benefits.

By 1869, over 2000 Chinese miners were working in the goldfields of Otago and the  West  Coast.  However,  local  European  communities  became  agitated because of these large numbers – despite an 1871 report finding that there wasno case to exclude further arrivals.

The lobbying continued  and expanded  so  that  in  1881 a law was  enacted to regulate the immigration of more Chinese coming to New Zealand. This consisted of a Poll Tax exclusively targeted on them – initially set at 10 pounds per person;however, as this sum had little effect, the tax was later increased to 100 pounds in 1896. The Poll Tax remained in force until 1944.

Other methods were also imposed to reduce and regulate their numbers: such as enforcing  an  English  speaking  test,  finger  printing, and  limiting  Chinese passenger numbers to the weight ratio of cargo on the boats that carried them;naturalization was also denied to Chinese until 1951.

It  was not until February  12th 2002,  that Prime Minister  Helen Clark  made an official apology to those  who  paid  the  Poll  Tax  and  suffered  under  past discriminatory  policies,  as  well  as  their  descendents  and  the  New  Zealand

Chinese community for the injustices that occurred.  Furthermore, the government also established the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust to help maintain their culture and language for them and their future generations.

Today  in  2015,  New  Zealand Chinese  make  a  significant contribution  to  the economic  and  social  wellbeing  of  Aotearoa  – as  a  hardworking  and entrepreneurial  people  they love sharing  their culture, language, and food with everyone as proud Kiwis in order to drive a stronger sense of nationhood.  The success of Chinese in New Zealand is a success for all New Zealanders. 

 For any enquiries about the  150th  Anniversary,  please contact  Mr  Meng Foon, NZCA National President, 0274 484084.

New Zealand Chinese Association National President explains investment in residential property as an

Date: July 15 2015

New Zealand Chinese Association National President explains investment in residential property as an established savings strategy

New Zealand Chinese Association (NZCA) National President Meng Foon says that those buying homes in Auckland are only doing so in accordance with the laws of New Zealand.  Until the government makes more laws to ease the housing market, many ordinary investors, whether they be local or foreign, will continue to buy property as a means of securing their family's future.

Mr Foon sees property as a tangible investment for the family unit no matter what their origins.  "It is important to ensure that our children have a home to go to, for income protection, for planned retirement, and for the future."   

Mr Foon suggests that government could better encourage investors to look to the provinces where investment is much needed.  For example, there should be more information on government websites to promote the value of provincial properties.
"New Zealand is a great place to come and live - with space and harmony in our communities; a lot of overseas people see our values and they want to be part of this paradise."
Mr Foon says ethnic Chinese have been in New Zealand since the early 1850's and have contributed much to its economy and way of life.  They have the highest employment rate in the country.  "We are hardworking and enterprising, and we love to share our culture with all Kiwis - such as Chinese New Year, lantern festivals, and our lovely food throughout the breadth and width of Aotearoa - even the smallest towns will have a Chinese takeaway shop of some sort."

For more information, please contact Meng Foon 0274 484084.
NZCA Auckland Branch launches history to mark 80th year

Tuesday 7 July 2015

The Auckland branch of the New Zealand Chinese Association (NZCA) will hold an official presentation of its history Turning Stone into Jade: The History of the New Zealand Chinese Association to the Auckland Chinese community on Sunday 12 July at 11am in the Tasman Room, Alexandra Park, Greenlane. 

Turning Stone into Jade tells the story of the country’s oldest national Chinese community organisation. In its early incarnations the NZCA offered kinship and a united voice for an often marginalized and fragile minority. 

The history recounts the change as the New Zealand Chinese have evolved into a community with a sense of place in the diverse population of present day New Zealand. Eighty years ago, the NZCA advocated for basic rights, such as citizenship and an end to the discriminatory poll tax exacted on the early Chinese and, in the late 1990s, worked with Government to finally see a national apology for the poll tax. In more recent times, the NZCA has sponsored forums like the Going Bananas conferences that have explored contemporary themes about culture and identity. 

The NZCA commissioned author David Fung, fluent in Chinese and English to go through the organisation’s archives and put down on paper a history that was at risk of disappearing into dusty archives or fading from memory, as the ranks of the elder members of the NZCA grew thinner with the passing of time. 

The origins of the NZCA lie in the formation of the Wellington-based New Zealand Chinese Association in 1935, created with the encouragement of the respected Chinese Consul-General of the time, Wang Feng. Its initial aims were to promote the “intellectual, moral and physical wellbeing of the Chinese.” Formed by members of the community, the NZCA continues its work, supporting young leadership initiatives, language and culture classes and Easter sporting tournaments.

For media inquiries, please contact Branch chair Richard Leung 021 891 942 

Turning Stone into Jade: The History of the New Zealand Chinese Association  


How old is the New Zealand Chinese Association?

The NZCA owes its origins to two initiatives, the formation of the Wellington-based New Zealand Chinese Association in 1935 and the New Zealand Chinese Salvation Conference in 1937.

What does the title mean?

The NZCA has taken a Chinese proverb, that translates as “turning stone into jade”. This refers to the meticulous carving required to turn a piece of stone into a jade amulet. The metaphor of the precise work needed to transmute a base substance into a valuable object reflects the work of past generation of the New Zealand Chinese community to create a better life from difficult beginnings. The Chinese were first invited to New Zealand 150 years ago by the Otago Chamber of Commerce in 1865 to work the tailings of the gold fields. From these first hardy pioneers who braved isolation, poverty and years of hard labour has come a community who are proud to call themselves Chinese New Zealanders.

What’s the book about?

Turning Stone into Jade is a community history based on records and documents from the NZCA archives. In its earliest days the NZCA conducted its business in Chinese. In later years, as the Chinese New Zealand community prospered and grew, the NZCA switched to English as its main language, while always acknowledging its Chinese heritage. The author David Fung is literate in Chinese and English. Turning Stone into Jade is a history of the development of the New Zealand Chinese Association and explores wider themes concerning the New Zealand Chinese community. Themes include the struggle to articulate a changing identity; how to preserve heritage in an increasingly anglicised community and how to articulate the voice of a community made up of diverse voices, from the regions and urban centres. 

Why is this happening now?

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first invitation from the Otago Chamber of Commerce inviting Chinese to come to New Zealand to work in the gold mining industry. It is also 80 years since the incorporation of the New Zealand Chinese Association. The history tells the story of how a community of bachelor sojourners were able to put down roots to grow the Chinese New Zealand community that is part of the diverse fabric of New Zealand today.

What does the New Zealand Chinese Association do?

It seeks to act as the voice of the New Zealand Chinese community. With the growth of the Chinese population in New Zealand, it is important that there be a focus for the community’s voice and aspirations. The NZCA is committed to preserving Chinese cultural roots and fostering the next generation of Chinese New Zealand leaders. There are a wide range of Chinese communities in New Zealand. The NZCA is the oldest representative organisation and has worked to reach out to newer migrants to offer support and assistance to understand the responsibilities and rewards of New Zealand citizenship. 

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