Saturday, May 22, 2010

Buy well, advises investor

There are plenty of courses about sales, but very little education about how to buy well, a leading property investor has told a Palmerston North audience.

"We've got to learn to buy better," Ron Hoy Fong said at a Manawatu Property Investors' Association meeting.

Mr Hoy Fong, who described himself as third-generation Kiwi Chinese, had a second crack at property investing from 2003 and his wealth was now at $10 million, he said.

He advocated buying at least one property a year.

Mr Hoy Fong, from Auckland, said there were three ways to make money from property – buying "wholesale", renovating to add value, and buying before a boom.

"If you start when the boom starts, it's too late."

He expected property values to double in the next decade.

Mr Hoy Fong told his audience to be wary of sales psychology.

Buyers at an auction should not go above the limit they had determined before getting there, he said.

A house that met its reserve was probably too expensive for a property investor, he said.

It was better to be the top bidder, under the reserve price, then negotiate. Buyers should also look for motivated sellers.

y GRANT MILLER - Manawatu Standard
Last updated 00:00 10/04/2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Millennium Tree ends fraught journey

A $150,000 gift to Auckland plagued by numerous setbacks has found a home in the Auckland Domain.

Unveiled yesterday by Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, the stainless steel Millennium Tree sculpture nearly died after trustees could not raise enough money for the project, which was first proposed in 1999 as a gift from Chinese New Zealanders to the city.

Then last October, when a site was approved in the Parnell Rose Gardens, residents formed a protest group to stop the work, citing a lack of consultation and the aesthetic clash with the gardens' Victorian and Edwardian atmosphere.

At its permanent home next to the Winter Gardens, the sculpture stands 6.5m high on a raised platform surrounded by large phoenix palms.

Wellington artist Guy Ngan's work was inspired by the wand of the Monkey King of Chinese legend - the fabled staff could dispel all obstacles.

"I'm sure he had something to do with it," Ngan said.

The artist, who has 35 other public artworks in Australia and New Zealand, was delighted with the work's final location.
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"It picks up all the beautiful trees. I can't think of a better place in the world.

"We started this project in the last millennium, and we have had to overcome one hurdle after another.

"It's been a very slow beginning, but we've not at any time really been disappointed. We've always had enough support to keep it alive. Finally we've got it built."

During the unveiling, Ron Sang, trustee of the Chinese New Zealanders Millennium Trust, paid tribute to the 150 sponsors who kept the project alive.

He said the Millennium Tree was not a monument to the past, but one that celebrates the contributions the Chinese have made to New Zealand since the 1860s.

Meanwhile, Auckland City is set to get another public sculpture on Thursday when the Prime Minister and Arts Minister, Helen Clark, unveils a work by Denis O'Connor, Raupo Rap, in Viaduct Harbour Ave.

- additional reporting Bernard Orsman
By Bernard Orsman and Errol Kiong | Email Bernard By Bernard Orsman and Errol Kiong
5:00 AM Wednesday Nov 2, 2005

Engineer's career reaches dizzy heights

You could say Greg Sang has reached the peak of his profession. The Kiwi is in charge of building Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building, in the frantic heart of the United Arab Emirates.

This Middle Eastern monster has already reached a breathtaking 160 levels or 650m. But still it grows terrifyingly, already twice the height of Auckland's SkyTower and four times as tall as the Vero office block in downtown Auckland. No one knows where the Burj will finish.

"The height is confidential," Sang said on the phone from Dubai this week. "At the top, you look down on everything. It's quite neat and it does feel really tall.

"It's like being in an aeroplane. Some people get scared but for the people who work there, it's run-of-the-mill."

Thousands of people are working on the US$1.1 billion ($1.4 billion) building which will be finished next year and home to one of the first hotel and spas by Giorgio Armani. The multi-use tower will be part-hotel, part-apartment block and part-offices.

"The lower zone will be a hotel designed by Mr Armani. We'll also have about 140 apartments by Mr Armani, another 900 luxury apartments and the top zone will be offices," Sang said.

Level 124 will be a public observatory, chosen because Sang said that with existing technology, this was the highest reached by an elevator in one continuous run. Viewers will be able to get to that floor in a non-stop 90-second adrenalin rush.

The Burj will have 56 lifts travelling at 40km/h and its penthouses are expected to fetch tens of millions of dollars each.

Sang is a former Aucklander who looks Asian, speaks with a Kiwi accent and has a New Zealand passport.

The great-grandfather of his mother, Joana Sang, emigrated from Canton to Auckland. Len Sang, Greg's father, had a more circuitous route here. Len's father emigrated from China for Fiji but come 1942, the family's concern about World War II and lack of schooling choice in the islands saw Len shipping to Auckland to stay with family and get a New Zealand education.

Greg's brother, Ant Sang, is a graphic artist who works on the television series bro'Town. The other brother, Richard, works in the technology sector in London. Award-winning Auckland architect Ron Sang is Len Sang's cousin. Ron is creating a dragon sculpture for the New Zealand Olympic team to sit within our village athletes' compound in Beijing.

In 1977, the Orient called the Sang family back. Len, an architect who spent many years at the Education Department, took them to Hong Kong after he got a public works job there. Greg has strong memories of the shift.

"I was 11 and it was a bit of a family adventure. I remember the heat of Hong Kong because it was summer when we arrived. I remember the excitement of staying in a hotel for the first six months while we were looking for accommodation."

Greg returned in 1984 and spent a few months at Auckland Grammar before enrolling in civil engineering at Auckland University.

But he finished in 1989, grim times for property professionals.

"I tried to work in New Zealand but the crash of '87 was still being felt."

So he worked for a short time as a building labourer and later at the then-Takapuna City Council on drains and water mains.

Len remembers worrying about Greg's career direction and encouraging him to shift to Hong Kong where he had connections and thought there were better opportunities.

So Greg moved to Hong Kong and worked for giant Japanese contractor Kumagai Gumi, for Britain's Maunsell Group and Ove Arup & Partners, eventually specialising in high-rise development. His masterpiece is Hong Kong Central's giant International Finance Centre, a HK$40 billion ($6.8 billion) 500,000sq m four-tower project which dominates the area's skyline.

The project, completed in the late 1990s, is Hong Kong's tallest office development and has a luxury shopping mall, cinemas and hotel.

"I was wrapping up the Hong Kong project when I got a call from Emaar Properties in Dubai about building the tallest building in the world. They asked if I could help because I had experience in tall buildings. So I came to have a look and after two or three months, I moved here," Sang said.

That was October 2004 and he has been working on the Burj ever since. He does not plan to return here but says life in Dubai is excruciatingly busy. Weekends are Fridays and Saturdays but international time differences mean Sang often finds himself working seven days a week, his BlackBerry phone constantly beeping.

"I find it difficult to imagine what I would do workwise if I returned to New Zealand, which is a great place to live but I like working, and I like working on big projects. I would not be able to work on projects of the same scale in New Zealand."

What he misses most is the pace of life here. Dubai is an intense and somewhat frantic city, its famously daredevil motorists forcing Sang to become a fanatically defensive driver.

One of his most loved places in the world is the wide expanse of Auckland's west coast beaches, one in particular.

"My favourite place is Piha, to be body-boarding there and eating some great hamburgers!"

In the meantime, it's Dubai for Sang and building the globe's biggest castle in the sand.

Age: 42
Position: Director, projects, Emaar Properties PJSC
Lives: Emirates Hills, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Schools: Meadowbank Primary, Remuera Intermediate, Auckland Grammar
Tertiary: University of Auckland
Qualification: Civil engineer
Family: Married to Julia
Children from first marriage: Zachary, 11, Erin and Jessica, both 9
By Anne Gibson
5:00 AM Saturday May 17, 2008

It is all about the pictures

Ron Sang's white shirt sleeve is splattered with drops of orange and red, surely more by design than slovenliness. The architect, collector and publisher loves colour. He sits at his dining room table drinking coffee, carefully positioned in front of a large painting by Ralph Hotere that features the same brilliant oranges and reds. It is a favourite from the painter Sang insists is "the only artist who is a living national treasure in this country."

A copy of the same painting, authorised by the artist, graces the study floor. "Ralph [Hotere] said to me, 'You own the painting, you can do what you like with it'," says Sang, gazing down at the inferno-red rug he had specially woven.

The entire house, as with all Sang-designed buildings, is built for art. Walls are white and wide without too many windows, the proportions gracious yet cosy. Carpets are pearl grey. Everything, from the massive bright blue front door, is larger than life. And then there's the art: several energetic Pat Hanlys, a massive Philippa Blair, from her Heart series, interspersed with Peter Siddell and a gleaming stainless steel dragon by Guy Ngan on the wall just outside the kitchen window.

Add in hundreds of pieces of pottery crammed into every corner and shelf - including the loo: enormous vases, some decorated, others gleaming with glaze, every variation imaginable of Len Castle's volcano series, an entire shelf of exquisite John Parker bottles - every collection complemented by enough glass to fill an art gallery.

But despite the numbers, there is a sense of grace and orderliness. Paintings are given plenty of wall space. And the impact takes your breath away.

This is only half of Sang's collection. "I love pottery," he says. "But there were so many comments saying the place looked like a junk shop we put away 50 per cent."

Now, rather than in the Parnell and Newmarket offices Sang Architects occupied for 18 years, Sang works from home in a light-filled room upstairs with spare desks for his two children who contract for the family business. He likes to invite clients back to the house so they can see a living example of his work. "It's quite, quite different from what they imagine," he says cheerfully. "A bit of a shock!"

"But don't worry about all this," adds Sang. "This is about the book!"

He is talking about the Ralph Hotere book due for release next week. It is a large, elegant publication with Hotere's unmistakable signature rolled across the frontispiece, and page after page of large, heart-stopping photos presented on thick 150g paper.

This is the latest offering from Sang's Montana award-winning publishing empire. He started Ron Sang Publications in 2002 with Len Castle Potter which won a Montana Book Award. Two years later came Michael Smither Painter which was a finalist. Now four years later - and a good 12 months behind schedule - comes Ralph Hotere.

Why Hotere? "Because he is the greatest painter in this country," says Sang. "That's not only my view, but also that of the art community. And there have been only minor books published about him."

Until now. The publishing, stresses Sang, is a part-time hobby. Which for a perfectionist who also works full-time as an architect, sounds near-impossible.

The Hotere book has taken three years to prepare. First Sang, in collaboration with Hotere, had to identify which of the artist's hundreds of paintings from a 46-year career would make the cut. In the end they chose 257, bringing together the biggest and most balanced collection ever of the artist's work. For months Sang travelled between Hotere's home and studio at Port Chalmers near Dunedin, identifying his most important works. Next came the task of tracking down the paintings. Some were in museums and galleries and reasonably accessible, the rest in private collections. Sang worked through Hotere's dealer, Sue Crockford. "She would contact the owners and ask them to call me. It took ages."

The good part, he says, was getting into houses you don't normally see - and seeing other peoples' collections. "I loved it - like getting into private galleries."

Although Sang's first two books were works of art in themselves, and had done brilliantly at the Montana Book Awards - but earned little money for either publisher or the artist involved - some owners of Hotere's paintings were wary. While most were excited at the prospect of being in the book, others asked for a fee for allowing their painting to be photographed.

Once they had permission, Sang and his photographer, Simon Harper, were reluctant to move them, making it complicated to capture the perfect image. "The black-on-black surfaces of Hotere's paintings are notoriously difficult to photograph," says Sang. "But Harper's technology and techniques have captured their textures and contrasts with a clarity of detail often not possible in reproductions."

Next came the printing. For the third time in six years Sang travelled to Everbest printers in Nan Sha, near where his parents were born in Southern China, to oversee printing. "Accuracy of colour is absolutely essential," he says. "Eighty per cent of the prints had to be adjusted and 50 per cent of those done again."

Sang and designer Kelly Farrimond worked 12-hour days, 9am to 9pm, alongside the factory workers. "It's a modern plant but it's noisy and dirty. The weather was hot, 31 degrees and 80 per cent humidity, but they give you very good service."

That service extended to lunch and dinner with the boss of the factory for the 12 days it took to perfect every print. Then they flew home and waited for the first book to arrive.

And there it is - sophisticated, impressive and, as Hotere wanted it, all about the pictures. "A picture book," says Sang. Apart from nine chapter introductions, complete with nine iconic Marti Friedlander photographs of Hotere himself, there are two essays - one by Kriselle Baker, written around Hotere's famous Godwit/Kuaka 18m mural which hung in the arrivals hall at Auckland airport from 1977, and now forms a five-page foldout in the book. The other essay, which chronicles Hotere's career, is by poet, novelist and short story writer Vincent O'Sullivan.

Both writers were nominated by Hotere himself, presumably because they understand his personal philosophy and loathing for cant. O'Sullivan puts it crisply: "His well-known distaste for `art talk', his deep reservations on highbrow theoretical chatter, is at base, a dislike for elitism," he writes. "He [Hotere] insists that what he is famous for is no more distancing between himself and non-artistic friends than any other kind of job. And that's the way it's to be."

Hotere, published by Ron Sang Publications, is released on Monday; standard edition (3000 copies) $195; limited edition with stainless steel cover, 170gm paper, rimu presentation box and signed by the author (100 copies) $1965. Available from bookshops or direct from Ron Sang Publications, ph (09) 638 6898 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (09) 638 6898      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
By Carroll du Chateau | Email Carroll
By Carroll du Chateau
4:00 AM Saturday Nov 22, 2008

Kiwi back to earth after tallest skyscraper completed

The New Zealander in charge of putting up the world's tallest skyscraper leaves the Dubai developer this week.

Greg Sang, director of projects at Emaar Properties PJSC, said his role had ended with the completion of Burj Khalifa, the 828m tall glittering glass and steel structure named after Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi.

"When I arrived in Dubai in October 2004, Burj Khalifa was a hole in the ground. Today the tower is open and making money so my work is done and it is time for me to move on," he said.

The controversial tower has had its share of problems.

Panic hit in February after a lift broke down and 15 people were trapped for 45 minutes until rescuers managed to pry open the doors.

Sang said the view from the tower's top was "like being in an aeroplane. Some people get scared but for the people who work there, it's run-of-the-mill". His last day is tomorrow and Sang said he was holding a small farewell event at night.

Sang's great-grandfather migrated from Canton and Greg Sang went to Auckland Grammar School before enrolling in civil engineering at Auckland University.

For a short time, he was a building labourer and later worked at Takapuna City Council on drains and water mains.

He then moved to Hong Kong and the giant Japanese contractor Kumagai Gumi. He worked for Britain's Maunsell Group and Ove Arup & Partners, eventually specialising in high-rise development.

Sang said he had enjoyed working on Burj Khalifa and it had been an exciting journey.

He is returning to Hong Kong where he said he would take a lower-profile role.
By Anne Gibson | Email Anne By Anne Gibson
4:00 AM Wednesday May 12, 2010

Chinese audiences treated to NZ films

A New Zealand film festival to screen in China next month is aimed at showing Chinese audiences that anyone in New Zealand can be a successful film-maker.

Boy, a box office hit directed by Taika Waititi, and Take 3, a short film by New Zealand Chinese director Roseanne Liang, will be among the films to screen at the festival - which organisers hope will encourage more Chinese investment in joint movie projects with New Zealand.

The festival will precede the signing of a film co-production agreement between the two countries in July, said Jim He, chairman of the Pacific Culture and Arts Exchange Centre.

It is understood the agreement will ease temporary immigration and importation of equipment between the two countries, to make it easier for screen production companies from China and New Zealand to work together.

New Zealand has film co-production agreements with Australia, Canada, France, Italy and Britain.

"The movies selected for the festival will show that New Zealand is more than just Peter Jackson," Mr He said.
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"We are a multicultural nation, and even non-European film producers can be successful here."

The centre has taken NZ films to China since 2002, and will this year host the festival in five Chinese cities: Beijing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Ningbo and Hang Zhou from June 7. Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey will lead the delegation.

Other films featuring include Gaylene Preston's Home By Christmas, based on her father's World War II experiences, Simone Horrocks' After Waterfall and Adam Strange's Aphrodite's Farm.

"There will be no blood and violence, because the Chinese love family-themed movies," said Mr He. "The selection of movies will give the Chinese audience a window to the beautiful New Zealand landscape, and also the wide options for filming in New Zealand."

Mr He said the Chinese were big movie fans, watching between 10 and 16 films a year on average, and films at the festival often played in theatres that were 90 per cent full.

Prime Minister John Key, in his message for the festival, said the Chinese communities here played an important role in shaping New Zealand's future.

"We have many Chinese communities in New Zealand, all of which have an important role to play in shaping the future of our country," Mr Key said.

"The Government is committed to ensuring their voices are heard.

"This is helped by the leadership of our first Asian Cabinet minister, the Minister of Ethnic Affairs, Pansy Wong."
By Lincoln Tan | Email Lincoln By Lincoln Tan
4:00 AM Monday May 3, 2010

Chinese Lifeline at risk of closing

A funding crisis is threatening to shut down a popular telephone counselling service for Chinese residents on the North Shore and across Auckland.

Chinese Lifeline is a free Cantonese and Mandarin language service that is part of Lifeline Auckland. It caters for distressed members of the Chinese community and provides affordable face-to-face counselling.

Lifeline manager Sunday Tsoi says the service helps not only new migrants struggling to settle into Kiwi life but also those who have been in New Zealand for some time and unable to cope.

She says it is now in danger of being suspended because of funding problems.

"There is a real need for Chinese Lifeline and it is heart-breaking to think it may be suspended.

"The service saves lives – we have had people write in and tell us Chinese Lifeline has been their lifeboat, it has given them strength to carry on," Mrs Tsoi says.

The service is appealing for donations to continue helping migrants on the Shore.

To help raise funds, Lifeline volunteers have organised a charity screening of two top-grossing Chinese films.

The love story Hot Summer Days will be screened at the Highland Park SkyCity Cinema on Wednesday, May 12, at 6.30pm.

The action-packed Bodyguards and Assassins will screen at St Lukes SkyCity Cinema on Monday, May 17, from 6.30pm.

To book tickets or make a donation go to the Chinese Lifeline website nz or call Grace on 909-8753.

BY JODEAL CADACIO - North Shore Times
Last updated 10:31 06/05/2010

NOT BOTHERED: Baker Maurice Piner has been working alongside what may be the ghost of a Chinese immigrant who hanged himself in 1891 on the site of

NOT BOTHERED: Baker Maurice Piner has been working alongside what may be the ghost of a Chinese immigrant who hanged himself in 1891 on the site of what is now Phil's Bakery on Gresson St, Greymouth.

The tragic tale of a Chinese thief may explain the ghostly goings-on at a West Coast bakery.

Baker Maurice Piner has been bothered by mysterious voices, creeping shadows and things going bump at Phil's Bakery in Greymouth.

"When I was working on my own in the morning, I would see shadows going around the bakery and ovens and that," Piner said.

"Sometimes you could hear banging and crashing upstairs, and sometimes you can hear whispering and talking in the bakery.

"You look around to see if there's anyone there, and you can't."

However, a Greymouth tourist operator believes he can shed some light on the mystery.

Paul Schramm, manager of Wild West Adventures, has been researching a new tourist attraction where visitors are guided around the town by an audio device that uses GPS positioning to tell stories as they enter different areas.

During his research, Schramm came across the tale of Ah Shing, a Chinese miner, who hanged himself in the boarding house that used to stand on the site of the Gresson St bakery.

On October 17, 1891, the Grey River Argus reported that Ah Shing's body was found early in the day hanging from a rafter in the boarding house.

It said Shing had earlier pawned a "silver lever watch and chain" that he stole from a friend, Bernard Gallagher.

Julia Bradshaw, author of a book on the history of the Chinese on the West Coast, said it was likely Shing was driven to the crime by debt.

"When the Chinese came out here, they would usually have a debt from the journey and sometimes run up a debt in stores or take out loans to send money home," she said.

The area around Gresson St became known as Chinatown in the 1890s because of the many Chinese living there, she said.

Bradshaw believed Shing may have been overcome by guilt after stealing from his friend.

Piner said it was interesting to have a theory to explain the whispers and shadows, but it would not put him off working alone.

By GILES BROWN - The Press
Last updated 05:00 05/05/2010

Movie takes the Chinese out of Aussie war hero

By Kathy Marks
4:00 AM Wednesday May 12, 2010

Billy Sing, a Queenslander of Anglo-Chinese ancestry, earned himself the title of Australia's deadliest sniper during the Gallipoli campaign, killing 201 enemy soldiers.

He received the Distinguished Conduct Medal, second only to the Victoria Cross.

But now the World War I hero is at the centre of a row, centring on a mini-series about his life by an Australian director, Geoff Davis. Australians of Chinese descent are furious that Davis cast his son, Josh, in the lead role, rather than a Chinese actor.

Sing's father is played by Tony Bonner, who came to fame as the blonde helicopter pilot in the Skippy television series.

The president of the Chinese Australian Forum, Tony Pang, said: "I'm very sorry to learn that somebody is trying to whitewash a Chinese-Australian face with a white face. It's a disgrace. To see this distortion of historical fact, it's sad."

Davis has defended his choice, saying his problem was finding a 60-year-old Chinese actor to play Sing's father in The Legend of Billy Sing, which is still in production.

But Australians of Chinese descent called it a betrayal of their heritage.

"We'll now have people growing up thinking Billy Sing was white," said Bill O'Chee, a former National Party senator.

Sing, who had an English mother and a father from Shanghai, enlisted as a trooper in the 5th Light Horse Regiment. He became known as "The Assassin", and the Turks sent their champion sniper, "Abdul The Terrible" to hunt him down; however, Sing shot Abdul first.

Pang said: "The question I ask myself is, what if John Howard is being played by a Pakistani? It's ridiculous. It's just not appropriate."

By Kathy Marks | Email Kathy