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Source: New Zealand Government

Nǐn hǎo (Hello in Mandarin).

Xīn Nián Kuài Lè (Happy New Year in Mandarin)

Néi Hóu (Hello in Cantonese).

Sun Nin Fai Lok (Happy New Year in Cantonese)

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Thank you for your invitation to attend this celebration today.

I would like to acknowledge and welcome:

  • Her Excellency, Ms Wu Xi, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China;
  • Mr Richard Leung, National President of the New Zealand Chinese Association;
  • all of you who have travelled from across Aotearoa New Zealand to be here with us this evening;
  • members of the diplomatic corps; and
  • my parliamentary colleagues.

I want to start by acknowledging the backdrop of the Coronavirus outbreak on these New Year celebrations.

I especially wish to pay my respects to those who have died from the virus, those who are sick, and their families and loved ones.

Ambassador Wu, New Zealand acknowledges the significant and sustained measures being taken by the Chinese Government to contain the virus.

It is my sincere hope that the current precautionary restrictions we have in place can be lifted as soon as possible, and that when they do we work closely to normalise commerce and people to people links. I am confident that through cooperation we can both bounce back quickly.

The virus has highlighted the breadth of connection between our countries. From Chinese students who study in New Zealand, to tourism, and commodity exports affected by the situation on the ground in China itself.

The strength of the bilateral relationship means that while there has been much that has been affected in recent week, there is also a sound footing for us to restore, normalise and indeed advance our relationship once the current outbreak is over. 

I also wish to comment on the concern and uncertainty that the virus has created.

The Government has been at pains to ensure our decisions are based on the best public health advice available. We’ve also been at pains to give the community the reassurance it needs.

Now, more than ever we must stand strong and support one another, call out any discrimination we see, and ensure we see only compassion and unity.

We share your hopes for a quick resolution, for people’s health and wellbeing. I now invite you to stand for a moment of silence – as a show of respect to those who have lost their lives.

I do now wish to turn to the reason for our gathering.

The Lunar New Year is an opportunity to celebrate a new beginning.  The Year of the Rat is the first year in the twelve-year zodiac cycle and represents a new and prosperous era.

People born in the Year of the Rat are said to be optimistic, imaginative, and clever. The Rat symbolises prosperity, strength, kindness, and innovation.

These qualities are important for us all. I, for one, will continue to reflect these qualities in my work in building an equitable and inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand.  And, in doing so, I continue a long tradition.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Chinese communities are one of our oldest and largest community groups. The first Chinese migrants to New Zealand arrived over 170 years ago, and many others have followed since then.

Today, Statistics New Zealand estimates the Chinese community to be over 260,000 people, about 5% of the population. 

Within that figure lies a great deal of diversity – different countries of origin, different dialects, long-term residents, more recent arrivals, children, students, parents, and grand-parents. All add to the rich tapestry that is modern Aotearoa New Zealand.

In 2004, the Government established the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust, with the aim of strengthening the identity of Chinese New Zealanders and their communities in New Zealand.

Over the past 15 years, the Trust has supported numerous projects including, exhibitions, research, and publications such as histories of New Zealand’s Chinese fruit shops, laundries, and churches.

These projects paint a remarkable picture of Chinese migrants striving to integrate and contribute to Aotearoa New Zealand communities – often in challenging circumstances.

Values of resilience, dedication, and generosity continue to define Aotearoa New Zealand’s Chinese communities today.

To mark the history of the community, tonight, we are very privileged to showcase one of the initiatives supported by the Ethnic Communities Development Fund – a short film called Looking back, Moving on initiated by the Auckland Chinese Community Centre.

To quote Neill Atkinson, Chief Historian at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage:

This engaging short film brings to life some of the rich human stories of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history, revealing how a group of New Zealanders overcame discrimination and injustice to establish vibrant communities that have made an enduring contribution to our society. Understanding our history and learning from the past is as relevant and vital today as ever.

Telling these stories is critical, now more than ever, and as I did last year I congratulate the Chinese Community Centre for the role you play in telling them.

I wish you all a Happy New Year of the Rat. May it be filled with kindness, compassion, opportunities, and prosperity.

  • Jian Kang Hao (“wishing people good health” in Mandarin)
  • Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái  (‘May you be happy and prosperous’ in Mandarin)
  • Gong Hay Fat Choy (‘May you be happy and prosperous’ in Cantonese)

MIL OSI