This year the Society’s National Conference was held in Tauranga, New Zealand’s busiest port and key export hub for our produce into China.
The theme for this year was: “Friendship in action 友谊在行动.”
This follows last year’s theme: “What do friends do? Renewing and enhancing NZ China friendship in difficult times.”
NZCFS National President Chris Lipscombe led the assembly. Our hosts were Tina Zhang, NZCFS Tauranga Branch President and John Hodgson of NZCFS Tauranga Branch Committee, assisted by MCs Kelly Li and Mia Zhang.
The programme spanned an entire weekend, from a welcoming event on Friday evening to the AGM on Sunday. All events were held at The Armitage Hotel and Conference Centre.
On Friday evening there was the significant live signing via zoom of an updated Memorandum of Understanding between NZ China Friendship Society and Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (BPAFFC).
A highlight of the National Conference on Saturday was the keynote address via Zoom by Dr Wang Xiaolong Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to New Zealand, introducing the theme of the conference: “Friendship in action 友谊在行动.”
NZCFS National President Chris Lipscombe also gave a keynote address speaking to the heart of the vital need to promote continued active expressions of friendship in action at branch and national levels.
Chris emphasised the importance of telling positive news stories about China and our activities with Chinese partners in New Zealand and overseas, He encouraged branches to publish stories and photographs of branch activities, which can then be shared through branch and national newsletters and reported through mainstream news media locally and nationally. He urged members to send letters to the editor where appropriate and through social media wherever practicable.
Chris also urged members to visit branch and national online repositories regularly, to promote, like and share with vigour, and to help ameliorate the deleterious effects of sustained antipathy toward China engineered by certain sections of the media.
Speaking to China’s huge significance to NZ, presentations were made by Bill Wasley, Commissioner, Tauranga City Council and by Greg Simmonds, General Manager of Priority One. Both highlighted the Port of Tauranga’s vital trading ties to China.
It was a pleasant, interesting, engaging, educational and worthwhile weekend, with presentations and discussions centred around time, place, and relationships.
Delegates from afar were formally welcomed (mihi whakatau) onto the venue on Saturday morning by Tamati Tata, hapū of Ngai Tamarawaho (Huria Marae), who through genuine congenial warmth and gracious humour enabled all visitors to feel at home.
We responded with a gift (koha) and a song (waiata); our waiata rehearsed by John Hodgson of NZCFS Tauranga Branch Committee and Matemoana McDonald, a Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor, while waiting outside the venue.
After the mihi whakatau and aforementioned keynote addresses there were two panel discussions.
The first, representing the subject of “Migrant Communities in Tauranga” featured three panellists — Tauranga Multicultural Council President Premila D’Mello, NZ Police Community Liaison Officer from the Bay of Plenty Constable Weiwei Verran, and Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Matemoana McDonald, with questions from the floor moderated by Tina Zhang.
All panellists addressed the vital need for cross-cultural communication — sometimes delicate and often difficult — to establish the foundations of friendship enabling cooperation and leading to peaceful mutual development.
A second panel discussion addressing the subject of “International Students in Tauranga” was moderated by Chris Lipscombe.
Panellists included Toi-Ohomai international student Christina Ji, Toi-Ohomai International Services Manager Ada Chen, and Access NZ Immigration Adviser Doris Schoeller. Andrew King, Oropi School Principal, was unfortunately unable to attend.
Doris exposed the tightened regulations now restricting immigration, impacting the hopes of international students. Christina spoke of her immense enjoyment studying early childhood education, noting that most students choose to engage with other age-groups and that there was a shortage of early childhood educators in NZ. Ada expressed support for the aspirations of her students.
A most cordial message expressing friendship and warm welcome from Ambassador Lin Songtian, President of Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) was read in English translation by NZCFS National President Chris Lipscombe.
An interesting and engaging address was also given by Parley Reynolds, Strategic Development Manager for Zespri in China.
In addition to outlining his mission for Zespri, Parley also shared something of his own journey to China. Parley has married his Chinese sweetheart, is raising a family in China, has close active communication and working relationships with key industry partners, and has his ear to the ground and a keen feeling for the pulse of international commerce.
We were blessed to hear again from Tamati Tata, hapū of Ngai Tamarawaho (Huria Marae), who spoke warmly to us of historical importance, of foundation, of place, of time, and of a common guiding spirit known to Māori, Pakeha and Chinese by different names.
With obvious affection, Tamati demonstrated his pride in his (comparatively) young relative, Parley Reynolds.
Tamati rounded off his presentation with a story that began with a meagre imported brown and hairy berry that many may remember was once known locally as the Chinese gooseberry. That meagre berry has now returned full circle to its point of origin in China as a plump kiwifruit, in green, gold and red smooth-skinned variants, a significant proportion of which are farmed and processed by tangata whenua.
All meaningful commercial relationships are founded on a recognition of mutual respect, are secured within the bonds of friendship, and can grow through relations of familial love.
Raffles prizes were drawn, with some very lucky winners.
The assembly stood for a group photograph, then indulged in a freshly served delicious buffet lunch, taking the opportunity to meet and share.
In the afternoon, warm, relaxed and well nourished, we embarked on a bus tour of Tauranga led by Greg Simmonds, Priority One General Manager, John Hodgson of NZCFS Tauranga Branch Committee, and Alan Birley, Zespri International Ltd representative.
The tour was entitled in the conference programme as “TAURANGA Pulsating Heart of New Zealand International Trade”.
The first visit was to Mount Maunganui Port to see the ship “Whero” being loaded with kiwifruit for export. Mount Maunganui Port and Sulphur Point together make up Tauranga Port, now New Zealand’s largest port. Forestry, kiwifruit and dairy products account for almost 75% of exports through the port. Much of this cargo is destined for customers in Japan, China, South Korea, South East Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands.
After the port tour we visited Apata Mends Lane pack house, a modern, partially-automated pack house showcasing apex human skills supported by marvellous cutting-edge technology.
Apata Mends Lane pack house is larger than an aircraft hangar but is not the largest in the Bay of Plenty, in either area or output.
We rounded out the tour with a visit to a kiwifruit orchard where the hobby horticulturists among us eagerly learned of the cross-pollination process and of the need for careful human interaction all the way through from planting and grafting to the continual requirement for vigilance against disease and inclement weather, the need for careful pruning, and then the delicate harvest.
Even the very best of automated robot pickers miss too much of the valuable fruit springing from rich soil, emphasising the need for human pickers. The bees need little encouragement in their work to ensure a rich bounty.
Truly, we are in the Bay of Plenty.
In the evening we enjoyed a banquet at Eastern Sea Chinese Restaurant. The food was rich, varied and plentiful; the service was prompt, warm and friendly. There was abundant fruit juice and soft drinks, also some excellent Central Otago wine, generously gifted for the occasion by Jin Song. The atmosphere was joyful. Each table was full of conversation and laughter.
Each table was also generously gifted a bottle of Qianxi Chinese baijiu. Gorgeously boxed and colourfully capped, the empty bottles were last seen heading out into the regions where they will surely serve a renewed purpose as decorative vases.
Kiwifruit farmer, kaumatua, and Member of New Zealand Order of Merit Turi Ngatai gave a memorable address at our sumptuous banquet.
Turi spoke with all the engaging fluidity of a flawless performer, so well versed in a decades-old command of rhetoric that he can deliver it as easy as turning a tap. Our assembly of friends were held awestruck throughout his oration.
Turi is a successful kiwifruit farmer, from the first Māori family to lay down vines in the region. From a very young age he worked the land and, by his own admission, the work ethic he absorbed early on enabled his rise through academia.
Walking through modern Tauranga, taking in the sights of former military occupation, the scars of yesterday still visible, a listener can forgive Turi’s challenging pride in his namesake (turi means ‘deaf’ in te reo Māori), for he has always been expected to remain deaf to the prevailing norm. He unashamedly and with great and engaging humour extols the virtues of endeavour — for he is a great and entertaining example — and he acknowledges that he was privileged, in that he, at least, still had land.
China is a major buyer of his premium kiwifruit.
John Hodgson of NZCFS Tauranga Branch Committee answered Turi Ngatai in te reo, a gesture noted and approved by Turi who has had much to do with encouraging the adoption of te reo Māori in the Bay of Plenty.
Next morning, Sunday, arrived the AGM. As there were no contested positions, all those nominated for National positions were declared as elected unopposed. Chris Lipscombe continues in his role of National President.
Dave Adamson has stepped down from his role of National Secretary but remains active in Christchurch Branch. Dave was presented with a Lifetime Membership award for his diligent and detailed efforts for the Society. He had been a member of the National Executive for 17 years.
A highlight of the AGM was the celebration of our National President’s birthday with a tasty, textured, many-layered, ice cream cake. A fitting tribute to the end of a busy and productive year.