Sunday, June 12, 2011

A voice for Chinese migrants

Producing four tonnes of chips an hour is busy work for Steven Wong.

But the hard-working East Tamaki factory owner doesn't stop there.

Mr Wong has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday honours for his services to the Chinese community.

He works six days a week but still finds time to help new migrants in his spare time.

The multi-millionaire from China has been president of the United Chinese Association of New Zealand for the past 11 years.

Mr Wong uses his established business Fresher Foods to help raise funds for the Chinese community.

"I came here in 1972. I know what it's like to be new in a foreign country," he says.

"I work to bring together new migrants and help them integrate into New Zealand life yet still keep their Chinese culture."

Mr Wong speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese and is often called upon as a representative of the Chinese community at parliamentary functions.

"I need to be able to voice the concerns of all Chinese people living in New Zealand," he says.

Mr Wong was also part of the government delegation to Beijing in 2008 led by then Trade Minister Phil Goff to sign New Zealand's Free Trade Agreement with China.

New Zealand life hasn't always been easy for Mr Wong. He migrated after being sponsored by his sister and worked in her fruit store.

Struggling to keep his head above water, Mr Wong worked two jobs. He was a kitchen hand by day and worked in a carpet factory by night.

"I worked six days a week back then and I still do," he says. "My wife also works six days a week. It's what we are used to in our families."

It was Mr Wong's wife Mary who sparked the entrepreneur in him so he started a takeaway business in Blockhouse Bay. "I needed to earn more money to support my children."

Eventually he tired of cooking the chips and moved on to making them.

"I set up Fresher Foods because I felt that in a takeaway business you are waiting for the customer. When you do wholesale or processing, you can go out and look for more business."

Fresher Foods now employs 40 people and runs 24 hours a day from Monday to Saturday. Mr Wong is the main supplier to Auckland and Hamilton takeaways and exports throughout the Pacific.

- Eastern Courier

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