By happy coincidence, today is not only the "Mondayised" holiday for Waitangi Day, but also New Year's Day on the Chinese calendar. The forebears of Maori and British signatories to the Treaty would never have envisaged that its timing would one day have this added significance for New Zealand. Even a century after the signing, when Chinese immigration was still largely restricted to male labour, the diversity of the population today would not have been imagined. But today there will be lion dancing in Auckland, Chinese lanterns, acrobatic performances and more.
The festival started last night with fireworks and performances which will continue for 16 days as tradition prescribes. It is nothing new. Auckland is now accustomed to celebrating the traditions of its large and growing immigrant communities.
Chinese New Year is a particularly auspicious occasion for restaurants. Food is central to the event, with some dishes and ingredients associated with friendship and good fortune. While Chinese in their homeland mainly share these meals at home, in Auckland they tend to go to restaurants where, no doubt, they find numerous other New Zealanders. The cuisine of many an immigrant culture is widely appreciated.
The popular lantern festival has moved to the Domain, which should allow it to be enjoyed without the crush that used to occur in Princes St and Albert Park. The fact that it has had to move attests not just to the growth of the Chinese community but to the interest of many others in its entertainments and culture, as anyone who has attended has seen. Astrology and fortunes play a large part in its universal fascination. Who might not want to know their feng shui for the Year of the Monkey, which starts today?
Monkeys are going to be everywhere. Parnell art galleries are featuring 30 life-sized representations over the next two weeks, before a charity auction of them for the Starship Foundation. Suburban parties to mark the new year are planned in Northcote, Remuera and other parts of the region. Lanterns, lion dancing, fireworks and food are going to be frequent sights around the city.
Financially, the Monkey is said to mean turbulence and Chinese stocks and currency markets have seen plenty of that in 2016 so far. It is believed to be auspicious for property investment, though, according to at least one Auckland expert, Ron Hoy Fong. He expects demand from China to pick up after a slump since New Zealand introduced new tax rules on October 1 and China began cracking down on capital outflows. That is as may be. Chinese investment surely has more to offer than property speculation.
Since October, when foreigners buying property have had to hold a New Zealand bank account and Inland Revenue number - and pay capital gains tax on rental houses sold within two years - sales at auctions in Auckland have dropped from 70 per cent two years ago to 30 per cent near the end of last year.
That is nothing but good news for all those buying their first home in Auckland, and for the national economy. If the Year of the Monkey brings more balanced investment, it will be good fortune indeed.