With a paint brush and the dotting of the dragon's eye, Ethnic Communities Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga will on Saturday launch Chinese New Year celebrations in Auckland.

Festivities in the city are starting earlier than usual to avoid clashes with the Waitangi Day and Auckland Anniversary Day weekends.

Chinese New Year falls on February 8, which will also mark the start of the Year of the Monkey.

Saturday's launch and Chinese New Year Festival and Market Day at ASB Showgrounds will also be the first for China's new consul-general, Xu Erwen.


Mr Lotu-Iiga said 2016 is the Year of the Monkey, the ninth animal on the Chinese zodiac calendar. "New Zealand's Asian communities, and the wider community, look forward to the lunar new year with much excitement. It is a time for renewal, for families to come together and for celebration.

"I am looking forward to the colour, the culture, the food and, of course, the traditional dragon dance."

The Mondayised Waitangi Day holiday will give families a long weekend to enjoy the activities.

Today, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) announced that one of Beijing's biggest alternative rock bands, Second Hand Rose, and best-known puppet troupes, the Shanghai Puppet Theatre, will be the headline acts for the 2016 Auckland Lantern Festival.

After 16 years, the festival will be moving from its Albert Park base to Auckland Domain in Parnell for the first time.

"The Auckland Domain is a spectacular location, and moving the festival there keeps this popular festival in the heart of Auckland," said Ateed general manager (destination) Vivien Bridgewater.

"We are excited that some of China's top performers will be appearing at the festival for the first time."

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is regarded as the most important Chinese festival. Celebrations traditionally run for 15 days from the eve to the 15th day of the first lunisolar Chinese calendar month. Customs and traditions vary widely among different Chinese groups over how the festival is celebrated.

Brothers Dylan Smith and Jacob Smith look at the lanterns during last year's festival. Photo / Nick Reed
Brothers Dylan Smith and Jacob Smith look at the lanterns during last year's festival. Photo / Nick Reed