Saturday, June 11, 2011

Plan seeks to preserve Otago's Chinese past

A Chinese heritage trail is being considered for Otago, linking Dunedin's newly opened $7 million Chinese Garden to historic goldmining sites in the Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes districts.

The proposal this month will be discussed by Otago Forward, the region's economic development agency.

Otago Forward chairman Clive Geddes, the Queenstown Lakes District Mayor, said the idea fitted with the agency's 10-year strategy.

That strategy had identified that the best way to boost the economy was by using "existing assets" in various sectors, like tourism, and via a co-ordinated approach across the province. He was supportive of the idea because of Otago's link to the Chinese through its goldmining heritage.

"Throughout Otago, you can still find families descended from those original Chinese miners that came here," he said.

"There is no other region in New Zealand that has that link."

Dr Jim Ng, of Dunedin, one of the project's principal drivers and author of Windows of a Chinese Past, said the heritage trail would be anchored by the Chinese village in Arrowtown, the Kawarau Gorge's mining centre, a proposed Chinese camp in Lawrence and Dunedin's Chinese Garden.

"It's really a mining mecca it's so well preserved and so compact," he said. "We probably have some of the best-preserved mining relics and sites in the world."

Ng's Lawrence Chinese Camp Charitable Trust is applying for resource consent to rebuild a Chinese goldmining village beside State Highway 8. It is expected to cost between $6m and $8m, and be built over 10 years.

Private money will fund a museum and hotel nearby.

Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin said the trail was a tremendous idea.

"It's a way to showcase our history," he said. "If it were not for the discovery of gold, would New Zealand be the country it now is?"

David Kennedy, the chief executive of Destination Queenstown, said China was one of the country's fastest-growing markets, but of the 122,000 Chinese tourists who came to New Zealand last year, only about 20,000 visited the Southern Lakes.

"For an emerging market like China, to attract the high-yield end of the market, that would be beneficial for all the businesses in Queenstown."

Otago Forward is made up of the province's district and city mayors, the Otago Regional Council chairman, the Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive, the Community Trust of Otago chief executive and three independent directors.

The agency will meet in Balclutha on July 18.

Last updated 22:43 06/07/2008

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