Sunday, August 30, 2009

20 November 1908

20 November 1908 - Ten Chinese were charged at the Auckland Police Court "that on Sunday, October 18, at Avondale, they did work at their trade of market gardening." The men were not doing ordinary gardening, but pulling carrots for supplying a ship next morning. They admitted that there had been a technical breach. Sergeant Hendry, who appeared for the prosecution, said that at Avondale there were European as well as Chinese gardeners, and the former were in the habit of working six days per week and the latter seven days per week. The Chinese had previously been cautioned, and he submitted that the Court should "show these aliens that they must comply with the laws of the Dominion." The Bench fined each defendant £1, and costs 13s - "Papers Past Hawera & Normanby Star"

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More on Chinese Winemakers in NZ

More on Chinese Winemakers in NZ

Received an email from Raymond Chan, a New Zealand-born Chinese and wine judge, wine retailer and wine palate extraordinaire. Raymond has been juding wines in New Zealand since 1989.

"We have a family story when we first started getting interested in wine in the late 1970s. Then, Totara SYC was of course highly respected for its white wines – Riesling Sylvaner and Chenin Blanc especially sought after, being medal winners. My Dad said that one of the Thames family came to our family living in Dunedin, asking if he could board with us while studying at university, our family names being the same, and that our families came from the same area of China. Dad, and our family not having the room turned him away. So our vinous journey could have possibly had an earlier start!"

Raymond also said, "Don’t forget Albert Chan". Albert Chan was the younger son of Stanley Young Chan and sometime after his primary and high school education in Thames he went to Australia to study at Roseworthy. He became Chief Winemaker at Lindemans in 1983 and went on to become one of Australia's most respected white wine winemakers. Albert met an early and tragic death, but his memory lives on with the Albert Chan Memorial Trophy for Best White Wine of the Show, presented at the Sydney Royal Show each year.

Who was really NZ's first Chinese winemaker?

Who was really NZ's first Chinese winemaker?

Followed a newslink today that took me to an article about New Zealand's first Chinese winemaker. According to the article at the Indian Wine Portal, his name is Johnny Leung - and he is alive and kicking and working at Twilight Vineyard* in Clevedon.

"New Zealand's first Chinese winemaker - that ain't right," I thought. "There have been Chinese winemakers in New Zealand before him".

One who had a lot of media attention is CP Lin - not so much because he is Chinese, but because he is blind. For a long time CP was winemaker at Mountford in Waipara but he is now making wine in the Hunter Valley in Australia.

There is also Johnny's name sake, Edward Leung, whose wines bear the label, Ma Maison.

But the one that immediately sprang to mind is Stanley Young Chan. His initials were part of the name of his winery, Totara Vineyards SYC, at Totara, between Kopu and Thames (click for map) in the Waikato. We called into the winery many times on summer holiday trips to the Coromandel Peninsula, not only for wine but for his famous Totara Kiwifruit Liquer. The winery buildings, winery shop and vineyard are still there. Cuisine magazine lists Gilbert Chan as the current winemaker.

But a quick search tells me that Stanley wasn't the first either. That honour goes to Joe Ah Chan (Chan Hock Joe), who, according to the Dictionary of New Zealand Bibliography, was not only the first Chinese winemaker in New Zealand to make wine, but quite probably the first in the Southern Hemisphere.

Joe (1882 - 1959) arrived in New Zealand around 1905, working in Wellington selling fruit and vegetables. He returned to China for a short time in 1916 but came back to in New Zealand in 1917 to settle in Matamata. In 1925 Chan began to grow grapes at Totara near Thames, the first Chinese New Zealander to do so, and in 1929 he produced his first batch of wine. He was reputed to be the first Chinese wine-maker in the Southern Hemisphere. In 1950 the vineyard was sold to a distant cousin, Stanley Young Chan, who changed the name to Totara Vineyards SYC.

The Encyclopedia of New Zealand records the first man from China arriving in Nelson in 1842. By the late 1860's Chinese were working the Otago goldfields. There have waves of Chinese immigration ever since. Many new Chinese immigrants arrived from 1987 onwards but there are also Chinese New Zealanders who parents and possibly grandparents were born here. So if you know any other Chinese winemakers in New Zealand, please email me.

*Actually the Twilight Vineyards website doesn't make the claim that Johnny is the first Chinese winemaker in NZ. Perhaps an over-exuberant reporter simply got the facts wrong.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Dragons rose and bananas soared at conference

Dragons rose and bananas soared at a conference celebrating the past, present and future of Chinese in New Zealand and overseas.

The fourth Going Bananas conference, entitled Rising Dragons, Soaring Bananas (, was held over the weekend of Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 July and saw scholars and artists from around the country and as far afield as Russia, Hong Kong, and the US discussing the role of the Chinese throughout the globe.
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New Zealand Chinese Association Auckland Inc chairman Kai Luey was sure the last conference in 2007 would be the final one but a strong demand proved otherwise.

The conference itself has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 2005. From one room at AUT to three at the University of Auckland’s Business School with over 40 international speakers and, as always, a host of local stories from a New Zealand perspective.

Stories from high-flying bananas such as real estate mogul Don Ha, commercial entrepreneur Rodney Wong and former kiwi Olympian Robyn Wong inspired and amused an audience happy to witness success within the Chinese community.

The conference no doubt celebrated the Chinese, but also raised questions about the difficulties of being Chinese in New Zealand today.

Questions about whether to teach your child their native tongue in a time when China is becoming increasingly important within New Zealand and on the global stage and the growing economic importance of Chinese business were prominent throughout the weekend.

The latter question was answered in a presentation by Professor Paul Spoonley on the back of a recent Asia NZ Foundation report about Chinese businesses in Auckland.

Among the findings, the report found a lack of attention given to this area of Auckland’s economy in the Royal Commission’s report on Auckland governance.

These businesses are becoming a major source of interest as Chinese immigrant communities play an important role in business innovation, entrepreneurial activities and international trade.

Once again the conference challenged perceptions of what it means to be Chinese and, according to Professor Manying Ip, was an opportunity for the community to reflect on “where we’re positioned in society, in politics and in history”.

As for the next conference, Mr Luey was reluctant to repeat history saying another one may not be ruled out.

Scoop was a media sponsor of the Rising Dragons, Soaring Bananas International Conference. Friday, 31 July 2009, 9:59 am
Press Release: Simon Wong

By Simon Wong

Rising Dragons, Soaring Bananas

I was intrigued by the soaring bananas but quite afraid to ask.

Since when could a banana even think about getting airborne?

One of the first speakers at the Rising Dragons, Soaring Bananas conference soon answered the question in my head.

The aforementioned fruit was a derogatory term for someone who was 'yellow' on the outside, but 'white' on the inside, often applied to Chinese by people both within and outside the community.

Hence the clever title of the conference - surely the best way to defuse a potential insult is to embrace it?

As a forum it aimed to "celebrate the journeys, stories and identities of leading local and overseas born Chinese personalities".

Across the weekend there was a huge variety of sessions to attend from the standard "Yellow Peril - Early Chinese In New Zealand" and "Cracking The Glass Ceiling" to the unexpected like "The Unique History Of Chinese In Cuba" and "Chinese Immigrants In Equatorial Guinea".

There was even the slightly bizarre "Chinese Culture And Dental Behaviour In Wellington" and "Manipulating Loyalty - Chinese Americans And Taiwan's Canned Mushroom Export".

There was plenty of inspiration to be had over the weekend, but it was always accompanied by a fair degree of sadness.

On the periphery

A fifth generation Chinese New Zealander told of a tough childhood where she always felt an outsider, completely on the periphery of all things 'Kiwi'.

At the age of 23 she visited China for the first time and felt an immense sense of pride in her ancestral home and culture.

But the feeling of social dislocation and isolation remained, as she couldn't speak Mandarin and struggled to relate to her relatives.

This appeared to be a common thread that ran through the entire conference.

People who felt too Asian to be a 'real' Kiwi and far too European to ever feel accepted as a local in China.

But such dissonance, confusion and isolation can produce remarkable drive and resilience as was epitomised in some of the tales.

Prominent public lawyer Mai Chen told of arriving in 1970's Christchurch along with her three other sisters.

The marching quartet caused a car crash on the very first day, so astounded was the male driver at the novel sight of these Asian faces.

Years of struggle

Chen spoke of years of struggle, desperate to fit in despite knowing she probably never would.

It was only when she stopped trying to be like everybody else, and started to see her ethnicity as a potential strength that she began an incredible journey that now has her as one of the most well-known legal faces in New Zealand.

This was a story with a happy ending, but Chen was quick to dispense lavish doses of realism into her presentation.

She reminded the audience that their ethnicity will continue to be a disadvantage in New Zealand and they will have to work harder, be better and more persistent than everybody else if they want to succeed.

Real estate mogul Don Ha shared his classic rags to riches tale, delivered with an engaging personal style.

He came to New Zealand (from Vietnam, via China) as a 12-year-old in 1980 and spent the first few months in a Refugee camp.

The young Don had an amazing work ethic and a real entrepreneurial streak.

Noticing a local liking for Watercress he collected it from a nearby creek and sold it by the bunch to a nearby New World. When the Council cleaned out his supply he began a lawn mowing round, later taught Karate (elevating 35 people to Black belt level) before going to work in the family bakery.

Tiring of the 72-hour weeks, he got a start in Real Estate and was soon the top salesperson at the branch, before opening his own company which quickly began to dominate the local market and now employs 100 agents.

Ha seems to constantly be looking for new challenges - recently he bought a $2 million racehorse "to see what it felt like" - while also being aware there would be a major publicity payoff.

He is constantly striving to improve and sees potential in everybody to be better, happier and more successful.

To sign off he broke a roof tile with his bare hands which certainly added some real punch to his 'nothing is impossible' message.


Across the weekend the level of self-awareness, and willingness for self-analysis by the various delegates was quite pronounced.

The speakers told of constantly questioning who they are, who they should be and who they would be.

It is a fight that the vast majority of Kiwis never have to contemplate but one wonders if we are poorer for not having embarked on such a crusade.

There was a sense, through the pain, confusion and struggle, that the Chinese are richer for the journey.

There is no doubt that as a race they have developed an incredible resilience and an ability to thrive, to survive and to flourish in communities in every corner of the globe.

While it is common to reflect on your culture and national values when living overseas it is hard to envisage Anglo-Saxon Kiwis anywhere managing this level of introspective honesty and self awareness - at least without the help of alcohol!

At one point it was seriously debated as to whether Chinese in New Zealand should be doing more to gain an understanding of Te Reo Maori - as well as English and Chinese.

Surely this is not a realistic question until somewhere close to the majority of Maori and Pakeha exhibit a propensity to learn Maori.

But the willingness to think outside the square, to question and to challenge accepted wisdom was an overriding theme of this conference where Dragons roared and Bananas definitely soared.

Published: 6:31PM Thursday August 06, 2009 by's Michael Burgess
Source: ONE News