Rotorua has the highest number of Chinese language school learners per capita in the country.

New Zealand China Council Education Working Group Chair Tony Browne said Rotorua had more than 2000 students learning the language and would receive an extra boost with the arrival of four native speaking mandarin language assistants from China.

Xiaoling Yin, Dandan Lu, Lili He and Mengjie Lin will spend a year teaching at 12 Rotorua schools under a programme run by the Confucius Institutes in New Zealand in partnership with Hanban, a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Education. Mr Browne and the assistants visited local schools yesterday and said increasing knowledge of China and Chinese language was an investment in the region's future.

"There are an awful lot of Rotorua jobs that depend on China in the tourism and forestry sectors.

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"Rotorua is a extremely well-known destination in China and to have a future workforce working with companies and people from China will not only be beneficial for the city, but for New Zealand," he said.

"In terms of numbers this city is ahead of anybody else in the country on a per capita basis. Knowledge of Chinese is a key to understanding the culture of doing business in China. Business is lost through New Zealanders not understanding how to engage with Chinese business leaders."

Mr Browne said the native language assistants would be working in partnership with teachers as it was beneficial for students to work with a fluent speaker. Two other assistants will be based in Whakatane and one will help out in Opotiki.

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