Celebrating Chinese New Year
8 February marked the year of the Monkey. An animal known for its curiosity, intelligence and versatility. People born in this year are said to be agile, with a great sense of humour. This day has become a major cultural celebration in New Zealand. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to celebrate by watching a fabulous cultural display in Wellington alongside the Chinese Ambassador Mr Wang.
Chinese New Year hasn’t always been recognised in New Zealand. The rise in celebrations across the country demonstrates our growing diversity, as well as our two countries’ relationship becomes closer.
Chinese migration to New Zealand first began in 1865, where the migrants mostly worked in the Otago goldfields. The number of Chinese migrants has continued to increase, with many generations of Chinese New Zealanders contributing positively to our society, particularly in business and trade. The number of people with Chinese heritage has now grown to more than 170,000. We are lucky to live in a country with multiple cultures, where everyone feels their cultural celebrations are recognised and respected.
New Zealand has also forged a special relationship with China through trade, education, and tourist links.
The signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) in 2008 resulted in major growth in business and economic relations between our countries. In the year ending 2014, we made a total of $11.815 billion – a huge increase from $2.1 billion in 2008. We are now looking ahead to refreshing our FTA so we can work together towards our ambitious shared target of $30 billion in two-way trade by 2020.
Another major affiliation we have with China is through our education system. Chinese students are the largest group of international students studying in New Zealand. The student fee revenue generated from international students contributed $803.5 million to the economy last year. Students are choosing New Zealand for our world-class education, as well as our relaxed, safe and tolerant society.
Tourism is New Zealand’s biggest industry, and visitors from China are now our second largest market. Last year, over 355,000 Chinese nationals holidayed in New Zealand. We expect even more tourists this year.
I enjoyed my chance to celebrate this important event in the Chinese calendar. We are fortunate to be a country made up of so many different cultures, which embraces diversity and enjoys the benefits of migration. After all, we are all migrants or descendants of migrants.
On an international scale, it is essential to have close connections with other trading nations. The economic benefits of our relationship with China are immense and our countries’ ties will continue to strengthen.