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Recently, several Councillors and I had the opportunity to
visit an impressive historic site right here in Ashburton.
The Chinese Settlement village dates back to 1921 when the
Ng family established a market garden under the trading name Kings Bros. Prior
to that, they had established a Market Garden in Gore dating further back to
Today, the site is probably a one-of-a-kind in New Zealand,
according to a Senior Archaeologist with Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga,
Frank Van der Heijden.
He explained that the site has high historical value,
especially because the buildings are still here. He also suggested that there
used to be hundreds, if not thousands, of these kind of settlements all throughout
New Zealand, but to their knowledge, only this one remains.
The purpose of our visit was to better familiarise ourselves
with the site, as for the most part we had only seen images and reviewed
reports at our meetings.
Being physically present provided a unique experience
allowing us to recognise the unique character and meaningful significance of
As I walked along the outside of the buildings, peering in
through the windows to see living quarters, an office, what appeared to be a
kitchen area, old cabinets and even an in-ground cooler box, I could not help
but imagine what life must have been like for these early settlers.
This site can tell us a lot about our history. Preserving
this place is important to Council which is why we signed a memorandum of
understanding with the Ng family in 2013, allowing us to be the custodians of
Part of our responsibility is to do the best we can to
restore and protect all items of heritage value, including the structures, whilst
working closely and in cooperation with the family.
Mr Heijden hopes to declare our Chinese Settlement an
archaeological site, which – if successful, will be only the eighth of its kind
in New Zealand with this classification (post 1900s). This comes with many benefits
and protections to ensure its continued preservation, of which we’ll be sure to
take advantage of.
While the site is fenced off for obvious
reasons, you can visit our Facebook page (facebook.com/AshburtonDC) to watch a
short video of our visit. This will give you a good idea of the tremendous
historic treasure we have here in Ashburton!