28 August, 2015

August 28 2015

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.