Monday, December 27, 2010

Goldleaf vineyard Goldleaf vineyard

This 1948 publication, Thames grapes and those who grow them by Anne Ah Chan, covers the history and operation of Goldleaf vineyard. Founded by Joe Ah Chan in 1925 and planted in Albany Surprise grapes, the vineyard and associated winery produced around 4,000 litres of wine a year. The vineyard was sold in 1950 and renamed Totara SYC.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Empress bows out gracefully

16th April 2008

Diners heading along Jervois Rd for Peking Duck will now have to fly further afield,, discovers Jacqueline Smith

Auckland diners are mourning the closing of a Herne Bay restaurant renowned for serving succulent Peking duck for 25 years. Empress Garden, a family-owned Chinese restaurant, opened in the old corner store on the no-exit end of Jervois Rd in 1983. Even though it's some distance from the other renowned eateries and bars of Jervois Rd, famous and regular faces have always flocked to the restaurant and it has been voted Metro's Chinese restaurant of the year for the past two years. Food writer Connie Clarkson, who was a regular, says the closure is a loss to the community. "There's very little Asian food in the area it was a beacon in the dark." Ms Clarkson says it won the hearts of Aucklanders because the food was consistently stunning and the owners always managed to welcome everyone through their doors. "It's always been a charming spot in that area." Paul Sharp, a wine consultant who would dine at the restaurant every couple of months, says he is left wondering where he will get Peking duck from now. "One of the things I enjoyed the most about it was when they would bring the whole duck out for you to see. People who hadn't been there before would have their eyes popping out." Mr Sharp says the restaurant must have witnessed big changes on Jervois Rd.

Longtime resident Frank Randall, 88, has seen the site change from a corner store to a dairy to a fruit shop, to a leadlight window shop. "I hope it stays a restaurant. It's pretty good," he says. There's a lot of history on the little corner, he adds. Many residents from the Jervois rest home, where Mr Randall now lives, often dined at the restaurant and he says they will miss it. Now, just like the patrons, Empress Gardens' formica tables and red paper lanterns wait to hear the fate of their building. For now, there is just a square of white paper taped to the window: "It is with regret that we advise patrons that we are closing the restaurant on Sunday April 6 having been in business for 26 years. Our immediate plans are that Joseph and I will have a holiday while we explore the sale of the business of the restaurant and the premises. We have been privileged to serve you over the years and this has greatly contributed to the goodwill and reputation of the restaurant. Many of you have become close friends and we hope these friendships can be maintained. Signed . . . Cilla and Joseph Tsui."

ENCOUNTER: Passing it on

Lauren Mentjox | 29th August 2009


WHO: David Wong
WHAT: First Chinese-New Zealander to play rugby league for Auckland
WHERE: Ponsonby United Rugby League Club, Victoria Park
WHY: Grass roots run deep in rugby league

David Wong says he is 67 but it's hard to believe. Dressed in a bright blue tracksuit and
running shoes, he appears - and probably is - fitter than people half his age.

There's a spring in his step as he walks, and he talks a mile-a-minute. Get him started on rugby league and his eyes sparkle.

For more than half a century David has held active roles in the game as player, coach, supporter, father and grandfather. He doesn't intend to give up anytime soon.

"It's a passion that exceeds everything else,'' he says. "I lived for it. And I still do. I love the camaraderie.''

DAVID'S PARENTS did not want him to play rugby league.
They thought it was too brutal and rough for a Chinese kid, he says, laughing as he recalls having to wash his own gear because his mother refused to do it unless he switched to soccer.

His parents were more into school than sport. If it bothers him that they never watched him play, he doesn't let on. "It was just the way things were.''

There was no way David would have given up the game once he started, anyway. It was 1952. The Wong family had emigrated from China in the 1930s (he thinks) and were living in Westmere. The 10-year-old David became mates with Roger Bailey, who went on to play for the Kiwis from 1961-70.

The pair started playing league for Ponsonby and progressed to the senior grades. The club won the Fox Memorial Shield, the region's premier competition, in 1967, the year David represented Auckland.

"I'm the first full-blooded Chinese boy to play for Auckland and I'm proud of that,'' says David, who believes that would not have been possible without the Bailey family's support.

"They took me to all the games and they made sure I got there. If it wasn't for Roger's mum I wouldn't have been playing. She was my biggest influence.''

David played for Northcote for a few years, then Bay-Roskill as a player-coach before returning to Ponsonby.

By then, he had married Beverley, had four daughters, worked at the freezing works, the Dairy Board, bought a takeaway shop on Hobson St and set up a lawnmowing business.
He was also into motorsport. Somehow he managed to come back and play league at masters' level - and was still playing in his early 60s.

THESE DAYS David's boots are planted firmly on the sidelines at Ponsonby United's home grounds at Victoria Park - watching the seniors play and cooking their end-of-match
barbecue or running masters' modules.

He is also helping organise the International Masters competition in Auckland in October, and he's on committees for the Ponsonby and Bay-Roskill clubs.

"I do it all because I just love the game. It's really important to keep in touch with what is going on at grass roots.

"We lost a lot of players so we have to try to get the culture back and encourage them to stay here to play here.''

That is something David is instilling in his grandson and namesake, David Nathan-Wong, who plays for Ponsonby under-9s. David ferries him and his sister, Tyla - who's in the New Zealand under-15 rugby union team - from their home in Blockhouse Bay to all their games. He's their biggest fan.

That's not where the Wong family's sporty genes end.

David's eldest and youngest daughters, Sheree and Deanne, represented New Zealand in touch while the middle two, Korina and Michele were provincial touch representatives.

David's daughters all tried league after growing up on the sidelines watching him play, but they "got bashed around a bit'' because of their small size so they switched to touch.

"But that's okay because touch came out of rugby league,'' he says with that ever-present sparkle in his eyes. "They've all done really well.''

Not a bad legacy for a skinny Chinese boy from Westmere.

Fox Memorial Shield games are broadcast on Maori Television every weekend. The final will screen on September 6 at 2pm. The Sharman Cup play-offs screen on September 12 at 2pm. Details:

OPINION: Dis-oriented

Auckland's oldest Chinese restaurant, the New Orient, has closed after nearly 40 years in business. This follows the closure of the city's oldest Japanese restaurant, Ariake, which folded in the same week after 30 years - Lincoln Tan, NZ Herald, 6 April

Well, that's a shame. Or is it?

If there's one subject your correspondent is qualified to rabbit on about, have a beef with, not chicken out of, having an opinion on, this is it: 12 years as a professional glutton - otherwise known as a restaurant columnist - under his slightly expanded belt, now blogging about food on the country's most-visited eating-out site,

With the connivance of people like me, we've convinced ourselves that Auckland is a gourmet society. That folks eat out often, and expensively, and adventurously, every weekend and sometimes on school nights, too.

Look at the awnings in any suburban shopping strip: Thai, Italian, French, Indian, cafe bistro brasserie breakfast lunch dinner. Or takeaway. And the numbers: one reasonably exhaustive dining-out website lists 3912 eateries in what we should learn
That's inflated because some can list themselves two or three times - under, say, "Italian" and "Mediterranean" and "European".

But the ratio, which is an indication of popularity among the populace, is an indicator, if not arbiter of the public's taste: Asian 95, Chinese 177, French 45, Indian 327, Italian 156, Japanese 183, Thai 272, Vietnamese 23. (Yet to find the 10 Cajun/Creole places. Love Jambalaya. Love Zydeco more. Or the two Russian or three Swiss, but have to admit I haven't looked very hard for the last two.)

Truth is, when Middle Auckland has a hunger for eating out, it's invariably the tried and true rather than the novelty and new. The Thai on the corner, the Indian next to the supermarket, the corner Italian rarely offer cutting-edge cuisine: an average home cook can usually turn out the same dishes, often with higher-quality ingredients, but the diners keep going back to their local heroes.

Perhaps those three cuisines are most popular because folk want to revisit the backpacking adventures of youth or the roller-case holidays of middle-age - even if the curry-house recipes were created by Bangladeshis in Birmingham and the pastas in New York's red-sauce diners, not handed down from a Tuscan grandmother. And don't start me on "Thai" diners in suburban Auckland.

Of course there are some highly honourable exceptions to these generalisations but, in the main, or on the entree, the operators of the two dearly departed summed up their dilemma in Lincoln Tan's article:

"Operators of the two restaurants say changing expectations from Kiwis and new migrants have largely contributed to their demise.

'It used to be enough to have sweet and sour pork and fried won tons on the menu to make it an exotic restaurant to Kiwis, but times have changed,' said director David Lam, who has been involved with the New Orient since 1973. 'We have just not been able to keep up with the new restaurants, and it is sad that we have to close...'

"Ariake manager Miyuki Sakairi said the restaurant suffered because it tried to keep things too traditional. 'To survive in Auckland restaurants need to give diners good food and new experiences,' she said."

They've put their chopsticks on it, right there. This dilemma is not restricted to ethnic, heritage, or cultural themed eateries. Take the dog for its walk through your main street, be it in Onehunga or Howick or Browns Bay at, oh, seven o'clock on any night of the week, and you'll pass restaurants with empty tables.

People ain't going out to eat. They're staying home and watching Masterchef. And the pain of the recession has, mostly, been felt in middle-range suburban restaurants rather than top-end places on the Viaduct or Ponsonby Rd or in the city's best: our world-class Meredith's, French Café, O'Connell St Bistro, Euro, The Grove and SidArt.

But it is easier for an eatery that brands itself as, say, Modern NZ or Contemporary to move with the times. Or, as the restaurant critics like to say, meet the zeitgeist. Or is it the schadenfreude? No, that's a German sausage, isn't it?

As Mr Lam and Ms Sakairi have found, to their cost, modern tastes are lighter. A chef at a Michelin-star restaurant in London until he came home two years ago, suggested over lunch recently: around the millennium came a preference for baby food. Baby carrots, baby peas, baby potatoes, baby ... "oh, I only eat meat once a week because I can't stand to see those pigs suffer but I will have just the littlest bit of that porky belly ..."

With it, a liking for little portions, otherwise known as tapas or mezze or, "I'll have the risotto as my main but could you give me the entrée size, please?"

And heaven forfend that food look and taste like the animal it came from; that one be served full-flavoured meats with gravies or sauces, or the devil's spawn, potato; that one be served anything that will get one in strife with one's personal trainer tomorrow.

So it's not altogether surprising that Ariake and New Orient, which didn't move with the times, find themselves going pork belly-up. But it is amusing to read that SkyCity has rebranded its Ming Court Chinese restaurant as "Jade Dragon".

There was a place - Formica tables and white china, as much white bread-and-butter and tea as you wanted, gluttonous and glutinous bowls of chow mein for $3 - called the Jade Dragon. But that was in the '70s. And it was in Hamilton.

- Ewan McDonald is editor of The Aucklander Ewan McDonald | 6th May 2010

They will call Aotearoa home

Sophie Bond | 20th May 2010

Frank Hua came to NZ from Tianjin, in northeast China, in 2004. MICHELLE HYSLOP

Surprising findings have shown up in a substantial study of Auckland's major migrant communities - British, Indian, Korean, South African and Chinese. Sophie Bond reports.

The noodle clamped in my chopsticks is more than 50cm long and still going. Everyone laughs as it slips and splashes back into the bowl.

"These are handmade," says Jenny Wang, one of my lunch companions. "The chef tries to make them as long as possible. In China, we have them on birthdays and we say if you can pick it up in one piece you'll have a long life."

It's not an elegant manoeuvre, but on my second try I lift the noodle out in one piece. Lunch in Panmure's Xi'an Food Bar with two local Chinese women is proving to be fun and fascinating.

In Auckland, most of us will know a neighbour, a colleague or someone we see every day who has moved here from another country.

Ours is a city of fantastic diversity; migrants make up about 38 per cent of our population, meaning we have an even higher proportion than Sydney, often touted as a multicultural mecca.

In the last financial year 27,215 people were approved for New Zealand residency with many of them settling in Auckland.

So, who is coming here, and why? How do different migrant groups cope with the culture shock? What are the advantages of ethnic diversity?

Over the next year, these questions will be tackled in reports by Massey and Waikato universities.

Their researchers have been working together since 2008 on the Integration of Immigrants Programme, a study of the settlement experiences and strategies of Auckland's key migrant groups since 1986-7.

This study will produce five reports based on interviews with migrants from Britain, India, Korea, South Africa and China - the major sources of new Kiwis.

We begin with Bamboo Networks: Chinese Employers and Employees in Auckland, focusing on the experiences of 40 Chinese migrants working in the accommodation, food and retail industries.

Professor Paul Spoonley is research director for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University and the study's leader. He points out that, in Auckland, about 40 per cent of Chinese work in hospitality and retail.

"I'm not sure whether they choose to do that or whether it's a fallback position because they can't get a job elsewhere.

"We found [participants] weren't getting jobs here that used their Chinese qualifications and that's true for most migrants. It's the same for New Zealanders going to the UK, of course. There's a sense of having to start again."

The study asked participants about their reasons for moving to New Zealand, difficulties faced, workplace experiences and how reality differs from expectations.

AT the last census, in 2006, Auckland's Chinese population sat at 97,425, close to double that of the 2001 census. Professor Spoonley points out this means a significant proportion of Auckland's Chinese population are recent arrivals. "I expect that within about five to six years a quarter of all Aucklanders will be Asian."

The results give some interesting insights into the lives of the Chinese migrants interviewed. The employers among them work an average of 65 hours a week; 45 per cent have a family member working for them without wages or salary.

Three-quarters of the employees came on student visas and 65 per cent felt their current job does not make use of their qualifications. Almost all interviewees plan to still be living in Auckland in three years; more than half saw themselves retiring in New Zealand.

For 95 per cent of employers, Mandarin is the main language used to communicate with staff. Professor Spoonley says language is a particular issue for all participants and, as a host country, we could be doing more:

"There's quite a hostile response in Auckland to the idea that we should provide services in Mandarin and yet, if you are going to meet the needs of these migrants, the thing you could do that would be most effective would be to provide services in Mandarin."

Overall, employees have better English than their employers but agreed lack of language skills and local knowledge were hurdles to integration.

THE importance of fitting in and understanding Kiwi culture resonates throughout the report and my conversations with other Chinese migrants.

The executive director of the Chinese New Settlers Services Trust is tall, elegant and well-spoken. Jenny Wang came to New Zealand from Dalian, in northeast China, in 1994. Her experiences and observations of being a newcomer moved her to set up the trust: "In the 90s, the immigration policy changed and lots of Asian migrants came to New Zealand. I think at that time, as a country, we were not ready for so many different people with no English background and there were a lot of settlement issues."

Moving from a job in the Chinese Government's education department, Mrs Wang started again in Auckland, first studying English then social work to prepare for her new role.

The trust's first office was in the garage of her Papatoetoe home. Now there are seven branches around Auckland with a combined staff of 26. Among other things the trust offers employment services, culture seminars, language lessons and counselling.

Mrs Wang says it's her experience that Chinese migrants are trying very hard to integrate into New Zealand society.

"There are a lot of cultural differences. They may not understand the legislation - such as you can't leave a child under 14 at home alone, or you can't just take as much shellfish as you like at the beach. Even how to do rubbish collection is very different here."

Migrants want to participate in society as soon as possible and we can help.

"If you have a Chinese neighbour, they are probably not that different from you. If you see them doing something wrong, tell them gently. It may be something they have never before had to deal with."

Mrs Wang's observations fit with the findings of Professor Spoonley's team. While Chinese migrants have "outward ambition" and want to fit in, they find it necessary to be inward-looking in the early years.

The report's title, Bamboo Networks, refers to the social ties Chinese migrants form for
support and advice. Professor Spoonley says these networks are relied on extensively and are a source of strength.

"There are very obvious examples of Chinese networks and centres in Auckland. I'm not sure many people understand how big and how economically significant they are."

These networks play a key role in settlement, particularly as migrants are, in general, left to their own devices, sometimes even facing indifference from New Zealanders and New
Zealand organisations.

ON the flipside, three Chinese business owners I spoke with emphasise they found New Zealand a warm, welcoming country. They say that when information is at times hard to find, the Chinese business mindset is to persevere and give everything you've got.

I meet one such go-getter, Frank Hua, in his opulent Newmarket restaurant, where we chat with a translator's help. Mr Hua came from Tianjin, in northeast China, in 2004.

"I went to many other countries around the world and New Zealand is much friendlier to migrants than other places. There are so many nations living all together here."

Would some level of English make life easier? "It's not a big issue because I have Chinese friends and a manager who speak English. But," he is quick to add, "I'm studying now because better English means I can share life with the Kiwis."

In China he worked in real estate; here, he hopes his two restaurants can provide a "bridge of understanding" between two worlds. "At the beginning, I thought New Zealand didn't really understand the Chinese so I wanted it to be like a window showing Chinese culture and what real Chinese food is like."

With a huge smile Mr Hua says he considers Auckland home, and wants to put his efforts into creating business ties between New Zealand and China. "I have been able to bring some important Chinese businesspeople here. At present, I don't think we are taking the chance to encourage Chinese businesses to invest here.

"Chinese people are hard-working and I think this is a gift to the economy. They are really good at doing what they do."

The Chinese migrants I speak to cite New Zealand's clean, green environment as their top reason for emigrating. Those interviewed for the report echo this attraction.

"The reasons they come here are quite distinctive", says Professor Spoonley. "It's about lifestyle, education for their children and themselves and it's a safe, clean city in global terms. If you look at Auckland in international rankings, it's one of the most livable cities in the world."

Census results show Chinese in Auckland are settling in a distinctive pattern, leading to concentrations of Chinese commerce and community. The main ethnic precincts - "ethno-burbs", as the report calls them - are in Auckland Central, Three Kings, Hillsborough, Avondale, New Lynn, Howick and Pakuranga.

Professor Spoonley believes recognising Auckland's diversity as a strength is vital for a flourishing city. "The super-city is a moment where you could say, 'Well, let's make Auckland a city that celebrates its diversity and use that diversity for economic advantage'."

He cites Vancouver - rated the most livable city in the world - as an example of a place which makes ethnic diversity a key component.

"One of the things I think is disappointing is that Auckland has what I would call a diversity dividend. The question is: are we actually capturing that ethnic and immigrant diversity?"

Liked it so much, they're selling the country

Anne and George Zhou emigrated from Beijing in 1994. They came on a short-term work assignment but liked it so much they stayed.

The couple say the green landscape and friendly people are the best things about life in New Zealand: "Our children are born here and this is our country now. Every day we think how lucky we are to live here."

Having travelled extensively, they believe "New Zealand really is the best country in the world".

Now, through their Panmure travel agency and tour company, they are proud to sell that image to Chinese and Indian tourists.

The Zhous bought into a franchise and say the existing staff and head office were a great source of support in the early days. They emphasise it can take time for migrants to settle in.

"English is the biggest thing and having an understanding of Kiwi culture. You've got to understand the local business culture, not try to use your Chinese mindset to figure it out."

Arrival lounge

The top six source countries for migrants recorded by the Department of Labour in the year to February:

United Kingdom: 4626 (17 per cent)
China: 3538 (13 per cent)
South Africa: 3266 (12 per cent)
Philippines: 2449 (9 per cent)
India: 2177 (8 per cent)
Fiji: 1905 (7 per cent)

Total from all nations: 27,215
Fun, fire, feasting

16th January 2008

Auckland's Chinese community will be celebrating the start of the Year of the Rat and the Chinese New Year at the Showgrounds on Saturday. The free community event will be a day of colour and cultural entertainment. Highlights include a fire-eater and flame-thrower, facechanging artists (rarely seen outside China), a lion dance group of 4 to 15 year-olds, and guest MC Caleigh Cheung, star of the TV2 drama Ride with the Devil. Two halls at the Showgrounds will be transformed into a lively market. As well as a market and exhibitions, visitors have the chance to win return trips to Hong Kong.

Chinese New Year Festival and Market Day, ASB Showgrounds, January 19, 9.30 am to 3.30 pm.

Dancing in the Year of the Rat

Many Aucklanders look forward to The Lantern Festival each year. Perhaps it's the everchanging lantern characters lighting up Albert Park late into the night that attracts them. Hundreds of beautiful lanterns - including brand new designs from China - help to bring Chinese New Year celebrations to a glowing finale. Last year's flock of "sheep" and "sheepdog" positioned beneath an old oak were a particular hit. Another big attraction is the food, its fragrance wafting into the park from Princes St, where there's lots of it to tempt spectators. This year's Lantern Festival ushers in the Chinese zodiac's Year of the Rat with far more than food and illumination. Traditional music and dance will vow to wow the crowds, too. Among the line-up of overseas and local performers will be Stephanie Lin's Chinese folk dance group, Yun- Tzu Cheng-Chueh Association. Taiwan-born Aucklander Lin says performing at festivals is "a great chance for us to forge understanding between the cultures". She has five teams of 10 students drawn from Parnell District School dancing at the festival who've been practicing hard for their performances. "I love getting all the students from different backgrounds together dressed up in little Chinese costumes," she says.

"You have to get every part of your body right. You have to remember your eyes, fingers, toes, knees, facial expression, listening to the music, remember the steps and work together as a team." For a colourful cultural experience, the Lantern Festival's makes a great walk in the park.

Auckland Lantern Festival, Albert Park, Auckland. Feb 22-24, 5pm-10.30pm. Free entry. Details, see

By Sharu Delilkan 6th February 2008

Kristy sure can do taekwan-do

Dragons, acrobats, martial art experts ... the Chinese New Year Festival will be a cracker, writes Sharu Delilkan.

It will be a family affair when Kristy Leong returns for the third time to demonstrate her taekwan-do skills at the ACCC Chinese New Year Festival and Market Day next month.

Her father, Don, and her 13-year-old brother, Mitchell, will also show their moves.

The colourful, exuberant, free community event, which this year welcomes in the Year of the Tiger, has been hosted by the Auckland Chinese Community Centre for more than two decades. Among its many highlights are a 24-person dragon dance, a troupe of acrobats from China and a highly respected portrait artist, Mu Yu Ming, also from China.

"We live in such a multicultural society here in Auckland, it makes sense to educate others and share our culture with them," says ACCC's vice chairman and events organiser Kai Luey.

Besides demonstrating taekwan-do, Kristy has competed for years, gaining accolades at the 2007 and 2009 World Champs.

She was also crowned 2007's Counties Manukau Junior Sportswoman of the Year and 2008's ITFNZ Junior Student of the Year.

Kristy says she's never had to worry about competing with her brother or father. "We compete in different categories because it's defined by our age and sex. Luckily, rivalry doesn't figure in our relationship."

Chinese New Year Festival & Market Day, Feb 13. ASB Showgrounds, 217 Green Lane West, Greenlane, Feb 13, 9.30am-4pm. Contact: Kai Luey, ph 522 1840.

Sharu Delilkan | 28th January 2010

In the skin of a lion

27th February 2007
When Hua Khoo came to New Zealand in 1976 from Malaysia, he was adamant about not losing sight of his Chinese roots. In keeping with his aim of maintaining tradition in his family, he decided to learn lion dancing. Herne Bay resident Mr Khoo says his Chinese martial arts and tai chi background helped him enormously to master the acrobatic movements involved in the artform. His seven-member lion dancing troupe, Khoo Lion Dance, is feverishly training to perform at the 2007 Auckland Chinese New Year Lantern Festival this weekend. This year's festival, for the eighth consecutive year, will be celebrated on the 15th day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. About 150,000 people attended last year's Lantern Festival at Albert Park. The free event will feature a variety of dance, music and martial arts performances, including the all-girl percussion group Red Poppy, acrobats from Tiajin and Zhou Xiaofang, and demonstrations of the art of gong fu cha, a tea ritual. Avondale School science teacher Mr Khoo has since tried to pass on his knowledge of lion dancing to his students. He says it's been difficult to recruit as ''the kids have found it hard to spare the time after school''. But his mission to impart the craft has not been in vain. His son Nick has taken to the dance like a duck to water.

Nick, 23, the group's official drummer, says he started learning the lion dance when he was 2. ''I enjoy the noise,'' he says. ''It gives me a sense of belonging. Lion dancing is part of what makes me, me.'' Mr Khoo, 53, says he chose the lion dance ? not to be confused with the dragon dance, which features a team of 10 or more dancers ? because of its manageable size. The lion dance mimics a lion's movements in a lion costume which usually involves a pair of dancers. The father-of-two, who usually plays the gong, says he is the ''super-sub'' who fills in where required. He has also managed to rope in his wife Joyce, who's conveniently a skilled seamstress, to help with the costumes. ''It's great the way he gets us involved,'' Mrs Khoo says. ''It adds to the spirit of the festivities.'' Mr Khoo, who's looking forward to helping create atmosphere at the festival, says, ''It's great that we're wandering around the park this year as we'll be able to have more rapport with the crowd while chasing away the evil spirits.''

2007 Auckland Chinese New Year Lantern Festival, Albert Park, March 2-4, 5.30pm-10pm. For more details see www.

By Sharu Delilkan

Talented Tyla has a touch of class

Rugby's in her blood and she aims to play for her country. Lauren Mentjox explains.

Tyla Nathan-Wong's family has a motto that guides her on and off the sports field: "Deeds, not words."

It has paid off for the softly-spoken 15-year-old who will go to Australia to represent New Zealand in touch rugby - provided she can raise the money.

Tyla was selected for the national Under-17 and Under-19 touch squads and is scheduled to play in tournaments and test matches across the Tasman later this year and in January 2011.

She needs to raise $7000 to get there.

"It's a lot of money, but we will be able to do it," says Tyla. "Playing for your country is one of the highest honours you can get so this is pretty awesome."

Tyla has played rugby union, rugby league and touch football since she could first throw a ball.

Despite being half the size of most rugby players, she has played at a representative level since primary school, saying that it is technique that matters most.

Dozens of her trophies are on display at the family home in Blockhouse Bay for sporting achievements that are not limited to rugby.

Tyla also has a red belt in taekwon-do, has played top level soccer, and won school cross-country events.

Last year, the Lynfield College student was a member of 11 teams in nine sports, including the Auckland secondary schools rugby team and the Aotearoa Maori Invitational touch team.

Sofia Hameed, the Year 10 dean at Lynfield College, described her as one of the most "exceptionally gifted all round athletes" the school has had.

"[Tyla] is a talented, committed and visionary young woman," she says.

Humble about her achievements, Tyla takes it all in her stride.

This year, when she's not training with her dad or playing for Auckland's Marist Rugby Club's open women's team, she is working on gaining NCEA level one credits in seven subjects.

In the future, Tyla says she hopes to add other sporting achievements to her touch rugby success. Making the Black Ferns and the 2016 Olympic rugby sevens team are high priorities.

"I want to go as high as I can go," she says. "I am competitive, but it is a lot of fun and I like meeting lots of people."

While Tyla's parents and grandparents are "over the moon" at her selection in the New Zealand touch teams, sporting ability is something that runs in the family.

Her grandfather, David Wong, was the first Chinese New Zealander to play rugby league for Auckland. He is still involved with Ponsonby United and Bay-Roskill clubs, and helped organise the International Masters competition in Auckland last year.

Tyla's aunt, Sheree, and her mother, Deanne, represented New Zealand in touch rugby while her father, Russell, was an Auckland Maori representative.

For now, the whole family is getting behind Tyla's selection with a "full on" fundraising drive that includes everything from social gatherings to sausage sizzles to make sure she gets to Oz.

Email for information about sponsoring Tyla.
Lauren Mentjox | 27th April 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A farmer works under a Kaiping Dialou tower. The towers in Guangdong Province were chosen in 2007 as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

A farmer works under a Kaiping Dialou tower. The towers in Guangdong Province were chosen in 2007 as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

Heritage recognition draining local coffers -

Heritage recognition draining local coffers -

The famous Diaolou Towers site in Kaiping, Guangzhou Province, is struggling to make ends meet in order to preserve and live up to its UNESCO World Heritage status bestowed upon it by the UN organ.

The site is renowned architecturally for its well-preserved, fortified, multi-story towers built by overseas Chinese in the 1920s and 1930s.

The towers, added to the World Heritage List in 2007, are in need of 230 million yuan ($34.5 million) to prevent them from further deterioration, the Guangzhou Daily reported, citing Feng Lijian, local Party chief of Kaiping.

Zhang Guoxiong, a preservation specialist of the Diaolou site at Wuyi University in Guangdong, told the Global Times that among 1,833 such towers still standing Wednesday, a total of 501 need special preservation, but the maintenance has either proceeded slowly or come to a halt due to the shortage of funds.

The 230 million yuan is what the site needs to spend to fulfill the commitment it made six years ago when it was bidding for the UNESCO title, and the need for money is becoming increasingly urgent because the site is due to be reviewed by UNESCO in 2013 to make sure the property has been properly protected and not become over-developed, Zhang said.

Zhang also noted that fixing up each building could cost upwards of 100,000 yuan each. The repairs include waterproofing, guarding against lightning, fixing up roads, reinforcing concrete structures and general appearance improvements.

Tan Jinhua, another expert on the site's preservation, from the Guangdong Qiaoxiang Culture Studies Center, said only routine maintenance can be guaranteed, as special maintenance measures, including those protecting against acid rain and geological settlement, fall short of funding.

"Ticket income can hardly pay for the routine maintenance costs. The preservation of these towers has become a heavy burden on us," Tan said.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dr Renee Liang

25 June 2010
In gallery:

* Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards 2010

2010 Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader Award Recipient

Renee Liang is a consultant paediatrician whose research looks at human development trajectories from early life to adolescence. She is also a widely published poet, short story writer and playwright – her plays Lantern and The Bone Feeder have played to sold-out audiences. By drawing on her diverse talents in both medicine and the arts, Renee is helping to define the cultural landscape of New Zealand and supporting positive community development.

Renee currently leads the Asian Advisory Group for Growing Up in New Zealand – a longitudinal study designed to gather information to improve the lives of all New Zealand children. She has previously undertaken a clinical project looking at the health of aboriginal children in Far Western New South Wales.

In 2006, Renee participated in the development of An Absolute Rush – a grassroots performing arts initiative for at-risk youth in South Auckland, run on almost no budget, but a groundswell of community energy. Believing that writing and performance empower youth through use of their own voice, Renee organised speakers and ran poetry workshops for the students. This resulted in a collection of moving stories of hopes and dreams. She also looked at the benefits from a youth health perspective and recorded footage for a documentary.

Renee believes strongly that linking across communities strengthens society as a whole. She is a driving force of initiatives such as Metonymy – which aims to spark creative collaborations by ‘blind dating’ artists from different disciplines; Funky Oriental Beats – propelling Kiwi Asians into the burgeoning arts scene in Auckland; and the Guerilla Poets, who demystify literature by literally bringing poetry onto the streets. She’s known as both a performer and an organiser of Poetry Live, a weekly event. As an Asian New Zealander she often uses her writing to provide cultural commentary and spark discussion. Through her blog on The Big Idea, Renee profiles emerging artists and community initiatives.

Renee’s ability to bring people together was reflected in her selection this year for the Emerging Pacific Leaders’ Dialogue – an initiative to strengthen the capacity of the Pacific region’s future leaders to manage challenges collaboratively, positively and creatively. Renee visited Samoa, Fiji and Tonga to share information and forge networks. She now works with fellow alumni to find ways to benefit the region.

As well as her medical degrees and specialist qualification as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Renee also holds a Master of Creative Writing from the University of Auckland, and has recently graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Drama Studies.

“My shared skills and passion for medicine and arts has often converged in my projects, and that’s because I believe they are the same thing. I’m interested in the stories people have to tell and the history that stands behind them. The work we do shouldn’t be determined by degrees or job titles, but by what excites us. By choosing something that makes your skin buzz – by following your bliss - you are more likely to succeed.”

Dr Renee Liang



If you ever call the Liang residence, here's a tip: Don't ask for Dr Liang.

The response is: "Which one?"

With three doctors in Renee Liang's family - her father is also a paediatrician and a sister is a surgeon on the Gold Coast - she has never been far from excellence.

A third sister is a film maker.

Renee Liang, 37, grew up in Auckland and is a proud old girl of St Cuthbert's College in Epsom.

She says that growing up in a family who supported her love of both medicine and the arts helped her to become a confident woman.

"I always felt encouraged and always felt mastery.

"My primary school friends tell me that they can still remember me saying that I wanted to be a pediatrician - and I was 7 years old!

"But my dad was one and I knew the word - I always looked up to him and now I'm here."

Dr Liang works as a consultant paediatrician and researcher.

She has an interest in community and child health and her research involves looking at human development.

Her second love - the arts - has also seen her become a widely published poet, playwright and short-story writer, as well as being involved in the performing arts.

She says her Chinese name, Wei Wei, was given to her by her grandfather and means "literary blossom."

"My grandfather named me that because he said there were too many doctors in the family - we need a writer or an artist!

"My mother didn't tell me that until my third year into medicine, so who knows what would have been if I had known that before."
Dr Liang plans to continue her journey in life "as sort of a surprise".