New year signals ‘good fortune’ for historic site

The Year of the Dragon signified spreading wings with the announcement of a $3.5 million-dollar plan at Lawrence Chinese Camp (LCC) yesterday.

At the annual Chinese New Year Festival, LCC chairman Denise Ng described plans to develop New Zealand’s earliest and largest Chinese settlement into a "major destination" with the help of sponsors including the People’s Republic of China.

"Resource consents are approved and this year we expect to begin restoring the historic stables, joss house and Empire Hotel, which is planned to house New Zealand’s first museum of Chinese goldmining history," she said.

Chinese gardens and a virtual recreation of the old Chinese settlement are also planned for the category1 heritage site, where up to 100 buildings have stood since 1867.

"Lawrence witnessed the sweat and struggle of Chinese gold miners," China’s Christchurch consulate-general He Ying said in a speech.

Lawrence Area School’s dragon joined Otago Southland Chinese Association lion dancers to ring in...
Lawrence Area School’s dragon joined Otago Southland Chinese Association lion dancers to ring in the new year at the Lawrence Chinese Camp yesterday. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
"Protecting the heritage of Chinese gold miners is not only a matter of respecting the past but a responsibility for the sake of the future.

"Our consulate-general is willing to contribute to the preservation of the Lawrence Chinese Camp."

About 300 festival-goers sampled slow-roasted pork and dumplings between lion, dragon and silk-fan dances.

Children enjoyed dragon-making and treasure hunts while adults learned mahjong, fantan and pakapoo in the old hotel "gambling den".

Otago University’s Prof Richard Walter led an archaeological tour, and authors Maxine Alterio and Eva Ng read their published stories of Chinese-New Zealand history.

"The Year of the Dragon is particularly meaningful because the yellow imperial dragon flag of China was flown [here] in the 1800s," Denise Ng said.

"We are certainly wishing for that dragon symbol of power, courage, wealth, wisdom and good fortune this year."