Peter (Wing Ho) Chin is a lawyer and former Dunedin city councillor who in 2004 was elected mayor of Dunedin. A descendant of one of New Zealand’s earliest Chinese families, he is a member of the national Chinese Poll Tax Trust which was set up with government funding in 2004. The trust aims to raise awareness of the early Chinese community in New Zealand and its history, language and culture.
The district's Chinese, English and Maori-speaking Mayor Meng Foon, whose parents immigrated from China to run a vegetable shop at Matawhero just outside the town, celebrates the gradual blending of races.
"The philosophy that we have as Chinese people is that love has no boundaries," he says.
"There are Chinese people marrying into Maori families, Maori people marrying into Island families, European people marrying into all of them, and it's a whole melting pot slowly creating that olive look in all of New Zealand one day."
It is happening faster in Gisborne than anywhere else, but Mr Foon is right: every region of the country is becoming ethnically much more diverse.
Mayor Meng Foon
Gisborne District Council
Meng Foon was born in Gisborne in 1959 and has lived there all his life.
He left school at 18 with School Certificate in five subjects and University
Entrance in three.
Meng served as a Councillor to the Gisborne District Council for two
terms (six years) before being elected Mayor in October 2001. His
“Mayoral statement” is to encourage our communities to build
Gisborne/Tairawhiti into an outstanding region, making our place the first
choice to live, play and do business.
Meng employs a ‘commonsense’ and ‘back to basics’ approach, and continues to work towards
a ‘user-friendly council’ promoting excellent service to all sectors. He has an open door policy
and endeavours to make himself available to all. Meng recently spearheaded a “Stop Tagging”
initiative in Gisborne. This whole-community campaign involved the NZ Police, local Runanga,
the Corrections Department, WINZ, Gisborne District Council, the Gisborne Herald and many
local organisations and individuals who donated time, money and impetus to keep the CBD
free from graffiti.
His community involvement includes, amongst other things, being an Executive member of the
NZ Chinese Association, President of the Gisborne branch of the NZ Chinese Association,
member of the Gisborne Host Lions Club and Patron of the Riding Club for the Disabled.
Meng can speak four languages – English, Maori, Cantonese and Si Yip (both dialects of
Chinese) and can read Japanese. As a child Meng learnt te reo and Maori culture whilst
working with Ngati Porou and Turanganui a Kiwa workers in his parents’ market garden at
Makaraka, Gisborne. His interests include music, culture and mahjong and he is a keen
supporter of Ngati Porou/East Coast rugby. He recently featured in North & South magazine’s
Birthday Collectors’ Edition “A Day in Our Life” and also appears in the ‘My Place’ film, part
of the Blood Earth Fire long-term exhibition at Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington.
Edited by NZBC, 25 March 2009 - 12:04 AM.