History of Chinese New Zealanders in the spotlight

Toitu Otago Settlers Museum curator Sean Brosnahan shows some of the Chinese history on display...
Toitu Otago Settlers Museum curator Sean Brosnahan shows some of the Chinese history on display at the museum yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Exploring where the past meets the present is the aim of 15 young leaders from the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Leadership Network, who are visiting Otago this weekend.

They will visit historic sites around the region and learn from academics and historians who will shed light on the history of Chinese New Zealanders, and the important part they played in New Zealand’s development.

Asia New Zealand Foundation deputy executive director Adele Mason said the leadership network provided professional development and leadership opportunities to emerging New Zealand leaders, supporting them to take an active role in strengthening New Zealand’s ties with Asia.

She said it was the second time the foundation had offered the experience to members of its leadership network and the opportunity was designed to help members grow their knowledge of Asia-New Zealand relationships while travel to Asia was constrained.

"Otago offers a unique and authentic experience for emerging leaders to gain new perspectives on early Chinese who came to New Zealand.

"It helps equip the next generation of New Zealand leaders with knowledge and understanding about how Asian people have contributed to New Zealand since the 19th century."

Chinese people have settled in New Zealand since the 19th century. By the 1880s, the South Island goldfields had attracted up to 5000 Chinese miners.

Today, New Zealand’s Chinese communities are very diverse, including descendants of some of the earliest immigrants as well as more recent migrants, not only from mainland China, but other countries in Asia.

The group visited Dunedin yesterday and will continue today to Lawrence and Arrowtown where there are historic sites and places of significance to the first Chinese to live in the region.