It has been an honour to be the President of our Society in its 60th year. For the Society it has been a busy year, with many very active senior members working in areas of their specialty contributing to our efforts for friendship with China and helping the people of New Zealand to extend their knowledge of that great country.
As I moved around branches during the year visiting two thirds of them, I could see the large number of committed members undertaking the cornerstone activity of engaging with their local communities and was reminded that the large range of activities undertaken by branches was just quite amazing. Your Branch annual reports detail many activities that build bridges with our Chinese friends and provide opportunities for New Zealanders to learn about China.
“China and New Zealand – The next Decade”
In May last year, we commenced with an excellent National Conference in Wellington with the theme of “China and New Zealand – The next Decade”. Our thanks go to Branch President Bernie Richmond and his hard working conference committee for producing a memorable programme for us. Bernie is absent from this year’s Conference as he is representing another organisation in Australia right now.
Your National Executive continued reviewing our structure and forward planning during the year, with the goals for the three years ending May 2014 being refined and agreed upon. We believe our focus, as now described in those activities and goals, better reflect our current activities and comply with the requirements of the Charities Commission. At this Conference we put forward a remit to increase the number of National Vice Presidents from two to three, in order to cope with the National Executive workload and to better support the regions and branches. The gap caused by the passing of Trevor Linyard, South Island Vice President, during last year, highlighted this need.
Again this past year we have been well served by the hardworking and dedicated Projects Committee, headed by Dave Bromwich and Sally Russell, who have furthered our aims to alleviate poverty, Industrial Co-operatives, and health-training projects in conjunction with Women’s Federations, Industrial Co-operatives and other Chinese partners. We have been very appreciative of the funding received from our Government and our Embassy in Beijing for much of this work. But now we are concerned that this support will diminish in the future with ongoing changes in Government funding policies. Additionally, as in past years, our activities have included encouraging teachers to go to both Shandan Bailie School and Hexi University, Gansu Province.
And of course we have the hard working He Ming Qing or Kathleen Hall Committee (headed by Diana Madgin) that is very proud of its success in training young nurses from remote regions to qualify and return to their home areas to provide basic health-clinic services there. We know Diana will leave this committee in a very strong position with many branches supporting its efforts financially and we are keen that she should continue to provide access to her advice and knowledge in the future.
Since our last Conference we have had a very successful ‘Projects and Tibet Tour’ led by Dave Bromwich and also in April a ‘Photographic Tour of Southern China‘ led by Judy Livingstone. Both tours have contributed to our Society’s finances and followed our recent policy of providing tours to areas we have direct interest in, such as Society projects and provinces visited less often by foreign tourists. We owe much to Ann White of Timaru along with Royden Smith and Dave Bromwich for carrying the tours’ workload following the passing of National Vice President and Tours Committee Chair, Trevor Linyard.
Our Finance Committee, led by Bernie Richmond and supported by National Executive Member Sally Russell, with retiring National Treasurer Royden Smith, has not only balanced the books but has put us in an improved financial situation after a few years of concern when the bird-flu scare and the economic recession saw a scaling-down of our tours . Thank you very much for all your efforts.
This last year has seen further consolidation of our website, of which we can all be extremely proud. Our thanks go to Christine Strickland, Ray Brownrigg and others of the Wellington team who worked with Dave Bromwich on this important task. And also it has been a personal relief to me to have the President’s Notebook changed into “The National Notebook” under the pen of Sally Russell. My grateful thanks to Sally for undertaking this vital role and for improving its value to all members.
Our Sixtieth Anniversary celebrations commenced with a banquet in Wellington in February close to the Society’s original commencement date – February 1952. Fifty people from half of our branches celebrated this important event. Apart from this fantastic Conference our celebrations have included a video on aspects of our 60 years prepared by George Andrews for showing at this conference. Later this year will see our 60th Birthday Tour which will be to places in China associated with our history and past Society activities.
Delegations to and from China
Once again we have hosted many delegations from China and it is certainly great to have with us today a delegation led by His Excellency, Mr Liao Hui, Vice Chair of the Chinese Peoples’ Political Consultative Conference and President of China Oceania Friendship Association. Besides Madame Zhao Ruheng, Mr Liao Hui’s wife, his party includes Mr Qin Xiaohao, COFA Council member, Mr Zhang Heqiang the new Deputy Director General of the American & Oceanian Affairs Department of Youxie [CPAFFC - Chinese People's Association of Friendship with Foreign Countries] together with two staff members, Mr Sun Tao and Ms Zhang Yang. Welcome to New Zealand and we look forward to working with you.
We treasure the close association we continue to have with Youxie and in being able to send an annual delegation of Prominent Persons from our communities and Society Leaders. Last year’s delegation was ably led by National Executive member Sally Russell and included our National Secretary, Heiko Lade and National Treasurer-elect, Chris Goodwin. Jenevere Foreman and her Education Committee was able to run a successful trial of Volunteer Teachers to China as suggested by Madame Li Xiaolin, President of Youxie. Jenevere and her committee have also worked on a number of initiatives during the year involving the promotion of Chinese Language and enquiries for Teachers in China. I was privileged, when visiting Rotorua branch, to go with Brenda Lee, Acting President of Rotorua Branch, to witness Laytee George’s scheme for teaching Chinese at intermediate school level in a social studies module. What an outstanding approach - just as she described to our conference last year! It is well worth other branches looking more closely at the opportunities her approach presents.
Embassy and Consulate visits
Close and strong relationships with the Chinese Ambassador and Embassy in Wellington, the Consul-GeneraI and Consulate staff in Auckland, have continued during the year and these have been strengthened with the opening of the new Consulate General office in Christchurch. The Ambassador and staff had a very good visit to Tauranga for the 25-year anniversary of the Yantai Sister-City Relationship and there were a number of other such visits including to Nelson. Relations with the Beijing City Youxie have been active during the year with Deborah Rhodes of Christchurch and Dave Bromwich attending a Friendship Conference in Beijing and also Beijing Youxie arranged an artists’ delegation to visit Christchurch in March of this year. These, of course, are only a sample of the visits and relationships handled by branches.
I would like to acknowledge the presence of Life Members here at our conference with us today: Cecil Fowler of Auckland, Mary Gray of Wellington, Bill Willmott of Christchurch, and Margaret Cooper of Tauranga. Also what an absolute delight it is to have Honorary Members Ma Baoru and Liu Guozhong from China to join us. What a shame Honorary Member Lu Wanru is not well enough to attend.
Our Society is held together at National level by a team of very dedicated people two of whom will change their roles and two who will end their contribution at this level at this conference. It will be very sad to no longer have long-standing life members Bill Willmott, our President for ten of our sixty years, and Diana Madgin, the founder of the He Ming Qing scholarships, around our National Executive table. Royden Smith, our dedicated and extremely reliable treasurer of the past five years is thankfully letting us continue to tap into his expertise as he takes on a new role of South Island Vice President. Jenevere Foreman is moving from being around the National executive table as an elected member to representing Hamilton as its President.
Thank you for your support during the year especially to National Vice-President Dave Bromwich; Royden Smith our Treasurer; Sally Russell, National Executive and Hawkes Bay Branch President; Jenevere Foreman, National Executive and Hamilton Branch President, Heiko Lade, National Secretary and also Judy Livingstone, Christchurch Branch’s Immediate Past President. For support during my absence overseas, thanks go to George Andrews, Bernie Richmond and Margaret Cooper. To all members, thank you for your contributions during a very successful year for our Society.