Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust trustee George Sue (left),
of Levin, views restored Chinese graves at Dunedin's
Southern Cemetery yesterday, with Chinese community members
(from left) Eva Ng, of Dunedin, Shirley Sue, of Levin, Rose
Luey, of Auckland, and Arthur Leong, of Hamilton. Photo by
Representatives from the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust
say they are impressed with the restoration of Chinese graves
in Dunedin's Southern Cemetery.
About 60 of 114 damaged and weathered Chinese graves at the
cemetery have been either repaired or replaced in the past
two years, at a cost of about $35,000.
The project has been co-ordinated by the Historic Cemeteries
Conservation Trust of New Zealand, headed by chairman Stewart
Harvey, of Dunedin. It was paid for by two grants from the
Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust.
Eight of the heritage trust's representatives were in Dunedin
yesterday to inspect the work as part of a tour of Southern
gold-mining areas frequented by early Chinese migrants. The
tour also included Lawrence, Cromwell, Queenstown and
Debbie Sew Hoy, a fifth-generation Chinese New Zealander, of
Dunedin - who is also a trustee of the heritage trust - said
the work was very important, linking today's Chinese
community with the hardships experienced by earlier
"You have got to remember what's gone on before to appreciate
what goes on now," Ms Sew Hoy said.
Fellow trustee David Wong Hop, of Auckland, said the project
was "unique" in New Zealand.
"This [Dunedin] was one of the main entry points into New
Zealand for Chinese gold-miners," he said.
The trust and a Chinese Poll Tax Fund was formed after the
Government's 2002 apology to the Chinese people for their
treatment, when they were forced to pay a poll tax to enter
New Zealand during the early days of the New Zealand colony.
In the past five years, the trust has distributed about $1
million from the $5 million fund to community organisations
to support projects with links to the Chinese community, such
as that undertaken by the cemeteries conservation trust.
Mr Harvey said Chinese graves in the Southern Cemetery had
been in "an absolute shambles" before the restoration
project. About 10% of the headstones had still been standing.
"It was a mess," he said.
The heritage trust's second grant, of $10,000 last year, was
allowing work to continue.
It was hoped a further grant, bringing the total spend to
about $50,000, would enable his organisation to finish
restoring the graves.
An information panel, explaining the graves' significance,
would also be built once the project was completed, hopefully
by the end of the year, he said.