Stewart House, home to Language College Whanganui, will soon also house Whanganui's New Zealand Chinese Friendship Society (NZCFS).

The society says it will not hold a lantern festival this year to celebrate the Chinese New Year, but will instead host a public ceremony to open its new doors at the Campbell St premises.

Whanganui NZCFS secretary Jan McLeod said the house will become a focal hub for China Friendship activities.

"We're letting Whanganui know how much people have done over the years and how much we would like to do."

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Stewart House owner Matt Nowak is also the vice-president of the Whanganui NZCFS branch and McLeod said he often hosts events for NZCFS at Stewart House.

Chinese tourists often visit Stewart House as part of the Language College, McLeod said.

The society hopes to get a Chinese calligrapher to write the characters of its name for a local carver to carve in both Chinese and English into the wood of the building.

The plan is for the sign to be seen from the road to catch the eye of people interested in participating in NZCFS activities.

"Its quite a fertile patch for there to be really good China relations in many collectives here," McLeod said.

In Whanganui, Chin-Māo, the New Zealand Chinese Association and Tong Xiang Hui all provide support and services for Chinese tourists or migrants living in Whanganui.

McLeod hopes the new home for Whanganui's NZCFS will bring these groups closer together.

She said an issue had been that recent Chinese migrants have come to Whanganui and wanted to hear Mandarin spoken but could not communicate with the Whanganui New Zealand Chinese Association branch as they only speak Cantonese.

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"Tong Xiang Hui doesn't know much about the Māori connection or much about us so I'm hoping to invite them and create a facility that creates a connection."

Owners and hosts of Stewart House Matt Nowak and Verena Nowak also own 42B College House backpacker hostel, next door to the soon to be Whanganui NZCFS base. Photo / File
Owners and hosts of Stewart House Matt Nowak and Verena Nowak also own 42B College House backpacker hostel, next door to the soon to be Whanganui NZCFS base. Photo / File

McLeod also hopes to get traditional dance and language lessons up and running at Stewart House with other Chinese associations around the Manawatu and Taranaki regions.

"We could have a Mandarin corner for kids learning at high school and an English corner for Chinese learning the language."

The opening ceremony in March will involve traditional customs including music from gongs and drums and traditional Chinese food.

Chinese Embassy videos on the connections made so far in Whanganui will be shown. The date is to be confirmed.

The NZCFS was set up by friends of Rewi Alley, a New Zealand-born writer and political activist who spent 60 years in China as a member of the Chinese Communist Party helping people run co-operatives.

Alley has strong ties to Whanganui, having farmed at Moeawatea for six years during the Great Depression.

The Whanganui NZCFS branch was first set up by the late Dave Feickert and re-established in 2012 to honour his legacy.