If people are of one heart even the yellow earth can become gold

Ancient Chinese Proverb

Our Story

A 2021 report on NZ secondary students revealed that just 52% of Chinese youth were ‘very proud’ of their ethnicity and 28% of Chinese females reported self-harming in the previous 12 months.

In order for our youth to feel a valuable part of the present, we needed to have agency in the narrative. 

The new curriculum provides an opportunity to ensure our history can be told and explored. Our lesson plans delve into the roots of racial discrimination and institutional stereotyping, and reveal the important role of the Chinese in the history of our country. 

The Dunedin Chinese Gardens Trust and the NZ Chinese Association Otago & Southland branch Inc. branch created Sun Gum Saan Ltd, a registered charitable company that provided seed funding to support this important work. 

We are developing a downloadable version of our timeline. Sign up to download when available. 

Chinese/Aotearoa History
1830s - 1840s
First Chinese Reach Aotearoa
View Details - First Chinese Reach Aotearoa

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1833: First recorded Chinese reach Rēkohu/Chatham Islands, Aotearoa.

1842: Chinese man Appo Hocton (c. 1819-1920) settles in Nelson.


1840: Te Tiriti: 500+ rangatira sign treaty with British Crown.

1848: Otago Colony established.


1845-52: Irish Potato Famine leads to 1 million deaths.

View Details - Politics

Chinese/Aotearoa New Zealand History

1850s: First recorded Chinese female, living on Rēkohu / the Chatham Islands.


1852: New Zealand Constitution Act establishes parliamentary system.

1858: First Māori King chosen.

Population Growth
The Suez Canal and the distance benefits to the shipping routes
View Details - Population Growth

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1865: Chinese in Australia invited to work Otago goldfields.

1866Aotearoa Chinese population reaches 1219.


1860s: Land Wars begin.

1861: Otago Gold Rush begins.

1868: First Māori members of parliament.


1861-5: American Civil War.

1869: Suez Canal opens.

Growing Prejudice
Cantonese miners at work near Waikaia. (Photo: Toitū Otago Settlers Museum)
View Details - Growing Prejudice

Chinese/Aotearoa History

Chinese mining population reaches 4200.

Chinese excluded from Lawrence township form a camp on the outskirts.

1876: Abolition of provincial system removes protection of Chinese by Otago Provincial Council.

Late 1870s: Gold running out - Chinese move into other occupations.


1876: First Trans-Tasman telegraph cable laid.

1879: Male voting over age of 21.

Late 1870s: Otago economy begins to decline.


1875-84: Statue of Liberty built.

1879: Lightbulb invented.

Immigration Restrictions
A poster calling a meeting in Riverton in 1881 to halt the immigration of Chinese. Ref: Eph-0009-DU-D. Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago.
View Details - Immigration Restrictions

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1880s: Chinese begin moving to New Zealand cities.

1881: Poll Tax introduced to restrict Chinese immigration.

1881: Chinese population reaches 5004.


1881: Invasion of pacifist settlement at Parihaka.

1882: First refrigerated meat shipment leaves Port Chalmers.

1885-1900: Long Depression: economic rivalry against Chinese grows.


1887-9Eiffel Tower built.

Poll Tax Increased
Yee, Nam (Born at Canton) - Age 27 - Arrived aboard Moeraki - Certificate issued in Wellington 16 November 1904 - Paid £100. Ref: R23675935. Archives New Zealand - Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga.
View Details - Poll Tax Increased

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1896: Poll Tax increased to £100 and one Chinese migrant per 200 tonnes of shipping cargo.

1898: Introduction of Old Age Pensions Act excludes naturalised Chinese.


1893-1906: Premier Richard Seddon’s anti-Chinese rhetoric seeds white nationalism.

1893: Women receive the vote.


1893: Diesel engine invented.

1900s- 1910s
SS Ventnor
SS Ventnor leaving Westport, N.Z.
View Details - SS Ventnor

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1902: Remains of 499 Chinese sink with the SS Ventnor.

1907: New Zealand arrivals required to sit an English language test.

1908: Chinese not permitted to be naturalised as citizens.


1899-1902: Second Boer War.


1903: First powered airplane flight.

1912: Declaration of Republic of China.

World War I
Bandaged British World War 1 soldiers in a battlefield trench, 1915-1918.
View Details - World War I

Chinese/Aotearoa History

World War I: 55 Chinese serve with New Zealand Armed Forces.


1918-19: Influenza pandemic kills c. 9000 New Zealanders.


1918-19: 50 million die in Influenza pandemic.

White New Zealand Policy
Chinese family in a greengrocer's shop. Ref: 1/2-037502-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
View Details - White New Zealand Policy

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1920: Start of White New Zealand Policy.


1920s: c.2000 Chinese workers indentured on NZ-controlled Samoa.


1929: Wall Street Crash.

Concessions for Chinese
View Details - Concessions for Chinese

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1935: First Labour Government reinstates social welfare for Chinese.

1935: New Zealand Chinese Association established.


1930s: Economic depression hits New Zealand.


1930s: Great Depression.

World War II
B-17 Bomber during the first big raid on Germany by the U.S. 8th Air Force. The raid destroyed most of the Marienburg Focke-Wulf aircraft factory. World War 2. October 9, 1943
View Details - World War II

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1941: Dominion Federation of New Zealand Chinese Vegetable Growers established.

1944: Poll Tax abolished.


1939-1945: World War II.


1945: United Nations established.

1947: Cold War begins.

1949Chinese Communist Party controls mainland China.

View Details - Naturalisation

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1952: Right to naturalisation restored to Chinese.

1954: Naturalised Chinese permitted to marry in Hong Kong and bring wives back.


1951: Waterfront dispute.

1957: New Zealand opens Scott Base in Antarctica.


1957: Sputnik 1 satellite launched by Soviet Union.

Vietnam War
Astronaut on rock surface with space background. Elements of this image furnished by NASA
View Details - Vietnam War


1965-72: New Zealand forces fight in Vietnam War.


1969: Astronauts walk on the moon.

Diplomatic Ties
View Details - Diplomatic Ties

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1972: New Zealand switches diplomatic recognition from Republic of China to People’s Republic of China.

1975: Chinese refugees from Indo-China begin arriving.


1971: Race Relations Act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, nationality or ethnic origin.
1973: Population reaches 3 million.

1973: First colour television transmission.

1973-9: Dawn Raids target Pacific Island workers.

1975: Land March led by Dame Whina Cooper


1979: Cellphone invented.

Vintage computer from the 80s.
View Details - Uprising

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1987: White New Zealand immigration policy dropped.


1981: Springbok protests.

1986: Decriminalisation of homosexuality.

1987: New Zealand becomes nuclear and biological weapon-free.


1980: Smallpox eliminated.

1983: Internet created.

1986: Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

1989: Berlin Wall falls.

New Frontiers
View Details - New Frontiers

Chinese/Aotearoa History

1990s: Chinese community launches campaign for a poll-tax apology.

1994: Dunedin signs Sister-City agreement with Shanghai.

1996: Pansy Wong becomes first ethnically Chinese member of New Zealand parliament.


1990: Commonwealth Games held in Auckland.


1990-91: Gulf War.

1991: Collapse of Soviet Union.

1994: Nelson Mandela becomes President of the Republic of South Africa.

New Beginnings
View Details - New Beginnings

Chinese/Aotearoa History

2002: PM Helen Clark apologises to Chinese New Zealanders and their families for the Poll Tax.

2004: Poll Tax Heritage Trust established.

2006: 139,728 people identify as having Chinese ethnic origins, and 5,451 as Taiwanese Chinese.

2008: Lan Yuan, Dunedin Chinese Garden opens.


2008: New Zealand signs free trade agreement with People’s Republic of China.


2001: World Trade Tower attacked by terrorists.

2003: Human Genome project begins.