Ministers, mayor celebrate Chinese, Korean New Year

By Brendan Manning

Auckland's Asian community, Members of Parliament, the Prime Minister and Auckland's Mayor descended on Northcote's town centre today to celebrate the Chinese and Korean New Year.

Chinese New Year took place on Friday night, when the Year of the Snake made way for the Year of the Horse on the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

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The Korean New Year occurred at the same time, bringing in the Year of the Blue Horse.

The Northcote event's organiser Dean Wilson said the day allowed Auckland's Chinese and Korean communities to celebrate their own culture while showcasing it to the rest of Auckland.

"We've got food here, we've got arts and we've got a lot of song and dance performances on stage."

The event included Chinese dancers, New Year's songs, dance performances, a Japanese Taiko drumming group and a circus act.

"They have grown each year and we've got a beautiful day, a lot of people are taking shade from the sun today - it's absolutely beautiful."

The Year of the Wooden Horse was incredibly important for the Chinese community as it was a year of great prosperity, said Mr Wilson.

"The horse is always seen as a very decisive animal so it's the year not to procrastinate, to make big decisions."

Prime Minister John Key was mobbed by fans from the Asian community vying for a photo opportunity when he entered the event.

The day showcased the cultural diversity of New Zealand, he said.

"There are over 200,000 New Zealanders of Chinese ethnicity; they're a hugely important partner from New Zealand's point of view.

"I think if you look at New Zealand, we are based on a bicultural foundation, but we're very much a multi-cultural society. It makes Auckland and New Zealand a far more interesting place when you can celebrate Chinese New Year, or Diwali, or whatever the cultural function might be."

When Auckland Mayor Len Brown took to the stage at the event he was met with a chorus of polite clapping and a smattering of boos from the crowd.

He welcomed the crowed enthusiastically, ignoring hecklers who voiced their disappointment over his extra-marital affair by using duck callers - alluding to his labelling as a "lame duck mayor".

"It's the Year of the Horse, not the Year of the Duck," he retorted.

Mr Brown said the day was a fantastic opportunity to meet "our fantastic Chinese and Asian communities". He described Northcote as the heart of that community in Auckland.

"This local community has been doing this for 14 years now and it's just a fabulous opportunity to celebrate Chinese New Year."

Mr Brown said 2014 and the year of the wooden horse was an opportunity for a fresh start.

"Anything to do with horses, man, I'm totally in it. We're galloping along as a city so look out."

- APNZ

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