With the dragon dance performance in front of its entrance, the New Zealand Parliament House became the venue of Chinese Lunar New Year celebration on Tuesday evening.
Prime Minister Helen Clark and her invited guests, over 400 representatives from the Chinese community, as well as ministers, members of parliament and diplomats, celebrated the Chinese New Year at the Parliament House.
In her welcoming speech, Clark highly praised Chinese community's great contribution to the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, saying they are diligent and hard-working.
She said the Chinese New Year is the oldest and most important festival in the Chinese calendar. It is also an increasingly important festival in the New Zealand calendar these days.
"For us, it is an opportunity to experience the richness of Chinese culture and to celebrate the diversity of culture in New Zealand today," Clark said.
The government "values and appreciates the contribution New Zealand's Chinese community makes to our country, and we place great value on relationship with the Chinese community," she said.
And for this reason, the government has held the Chinese New Year celebration at the Parliament House annually in the past few years, she added.
China has become New Zealand's fourth largest trade partner and "China is very important to New Zealand, and two countries have celebrated their 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties in last December," said Clark.
"The free trade talks between New Zealand and China are very successful. And in the next few weeks, I am expected to make exciting announcement on our free trade talks," said the New Zealand prime minister.
Speaking in Chinese, Clark wished everyone happy Chinese New Year.
A model of a sculpture that will be gifted by New Zealand's Chinese community to the New Zealand Beijing Olympic Team was unveiled at the Chinese New Year celebrations held at Parliament House on Tuesday.
President of the New Zealand Chinese Association, Kai Luey, announced plans to begin fundraising efforts for commissioning the sculpture. The piece will be a two meter high dragon made of stainless steel on a granite base.
"I am delighted that the New Zealand Chinese Association has taken the initiative to commission a piece in honor of New Zealand's enduring relationship with China ahead of the Beijing Olympics," Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter said.
"Parliament's celebration of Chinese New Year recognizes that New Zealand is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. It is an opportunity for Members of Parliament, students, diplomats and community members to come together to recognize the growing importance of this festival to the cultural life of our country," Carter told reporters.
Chinese ribbon dance, fan dance and Xinjiang ethnic folk dance were also performed at the reception.
The Chinese Lunar New Year fell on Feb. 7 and the Lantern Festival falls on Feb. 21.