OPINION: From Sichuan to Canterbury, Luke Qin's journey to New Zealand started with schoolbooks in the Middle Kingdom of China and lead to the Middle Earth of Aotearoa. In the second of two parts (check out part one here), he tells his story to AMC.
As a teenager at Linwood High School I had no fear, so curiosity drove me to put my hand up for a trial with the school rugby team. Surprisingly, I was selected to play for the First XV on the blindside wing, as I had serious wheels back then. The problem was, I had to learn all the rules from scratch. My teammates were really supportive, especially our Captain/Head Boy, Josh, who took me under his wing. But I knew I had to prove that I deserved to take the field to represent the school. I remember the overwhelming emotion when I was handed my jersey in the changing room before my first game, with all my teammates and coaches applauding and nodding approvingly. I remember during one game, as I was tackling my opposite wing, our own flanker, a strapping Samoan boy, ran over and smashed the both of us. I felt something hot dripping down my forehead, but charged straight back into the ruck, only to be dragged off by Mr Edgerton who took me to the hospital to be stitched up. After that, I truly became one of the boys, as I had earned my respect through blood and sweat, and I remember the commotion at the school assembly when our Principal, Mr Burrough, handed me my First XV Rugby Blazer Award.
I had a great time at Linwood, and it was an excellent introduction to the New Zealand way of life. The lessons and opportunities I enjoyed there gave me self-belief and prepared me for what was to come. I was chosen to represent the school in the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme, and won the Excellence Award for Commerce, sponsored by Lincoln University. A decade later, I was honoured to give back, as I mentored the Hutt Valley High School team to take out the Wellington Regional Young Enterprise Scheme Company of the Year in 2014. I broke four electronic dictionaries learning English, reading politics and sports pages while jotting down every new word I’d come across. I taught my accounting teacher Mrs Carr Chinese, and she became my first mentor and answered all my questions on anything Kiwiana.
After graduating from the University of Canterbury and a couple of jobs in bilingual journalism and business development, an opportunity to join the banking industry took me to Wellington, and now Auckland. This work has meant that I have been able to travel the country to support many hardworking and innovative businesses that generate export earnings for New Zealand and bring in goods to ensure New Zealand's living standards. I am convinced that, New Zealand’s future prosperity depends on its liberal and pluralistic society, a fair and transparent international system, and its ongoing ability to invest in productive assets to provide value to the world.
‘Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi’
Over the past two decades, I have been blessed to work with and learn from many amazing people of various backgrounds that call New Zealand home. The Asia New Zealand Foundation took me to Japan and Waitangi, and afforded me the opportunity to connect with and learn from New Zealand’s future leaders. It helped broaden my horizon to better understand and appreciate Asia’s diversity and its importance to New Zealand’s future prosperity.
I was appointed to serve as treasurer and standing committee member of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, and was later elected to serve on the board. I had the opportunity to attend state luncheons and public forums welcoming foreign dignitaries, and was invited to attend many celebrations, seminars, roundtables and cultural exchanges hosted by the United States, Japan, India, Australia, China, the United Kingdom, Hungary, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Korea at public venues, embassies, high commissions, and official residences.
I was elected to serve as a board director of Transparency International New Zealand and regularly attended the Public Sector Leaders Integrity Forum at the Office of the Auditor-General. I have served on the executive committees of the New Zealand China Council, the New Zealand China Trade Association, and the New Zealand China Friendship Society. Even though I wasn’t born in New Zealand and my Cantonese is scratchy at best, I was entrusted to chair the Wellington Chinese Association and serve on the national executive of the New Zealand Chinese Association. I was elected by fellow panel members and city councillors to chair Hutt City Council Community Funding Panel, and was selected to serve on the panel of the Ministry for Ethnic Communities Development Fund. I was chosen to attend the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in Sydney as a member of its Emerging Leaders Programme. I recently became a volunteer patroller with Community Patrols of New Zealand.
I have learned both All Blacks haka and an off-the-cuff video featuring my then 5-year-old and I jamming ‘Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi’ to celebrate the 2020 Māori Language Week unexpectedly had nearly 14,000 views and 900+ likes on Twitter. The Friends of Waiwhetu Streams taught me how to distinguish weeds from native plants, and the White Ribbon Trust nominated me to serve as a White Ribbon Ambassador. The Hurricanes Super Rugby Team named me as its cultural advisor, and two senior All Blacks held up Chinese couplets with me to wish the Chinese community a happy Dragon Boat Festival.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand trained me as a volunteer firefighter for nine years, and supported me to complete the Sky Tower Stair Challenge to raise funds for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. I will never forget the look on my son’s face when our fire truck visited his kindy, and the kids performing the ‘Fire Truck Song’ to thank us, before we had to dart away for a real call-out.
I take pride in being able to go home whichever way I travel between my little shire in Sichuan and New Zealand. I am grateful for the many opportunities and adventures New Zealand has given me. I can’t wait to share my experience and lessons with my son and introduce him to the world just as I was taught and inspired by my family, colleagues, friends and mentors, who have helped me along the way. When I am feeling down, unwell or unconfident, I just have to reflect back on the many opportunities I have received and the challenges I have overcome, as it gives me renewed strength to pursue my current assignments and the quests that lie ahead.
Nō reira, waiho i te toi poto, kaua i te toi roa. Kua tawhiti kē tō haerenga mai, kia kore e haere tonu. He tino nui rawa o ōu mahi, kia kore e mahi nui tonu. Kua pari ngā tai, kua timu ngā tai, he tai ope, he tai roa e kūmea mai nei i te tai nui kia eke panuku, eke tangaroa. He toka tū moana, Haumi e! Hui e! Taiki e!
- Asia Media Centre