By ROBYN BRISTOW
Rewi Alley’s special connection to the Hurunui district was celebrated at Amberley’s Chamberlain Park last weekend, a park which holds a special place in the life story of Alley and his family.
Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy opened a new China-New Zealand Garden in the park, celebrating the work and legacy of Alley on the 120th anniversary of his life.
She also unveiled the New Zealand China Friendship Bridge plaque, a symbol of the coming together of two nations, through the work of Alley, and of the mutual respect for economic, educational and cultural ties.
The garden is a tribute to this friendship, says Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley and celebrates Alley’s life as one of the most revered foreigners in China where he spent 60 years working to improve the life for the Chinese people.
It also cements the sister district relationship forged between the Hubei, Changping and the Hurunui district and builds on the special friendship the Hurunui district has had with China through the legacy of Alley.
Chamberlain Park is a huge part of the Alley family’s history. It was their home for 10 years with their house built where the playcentre now stands, beside the new garden. It was also the home of the first Amberley School which Alley attended and where his father was headmaster.
Amberley School children performed a haka and waiata to open the celebration with Mr Dalley then welcoming members of the Duan-Alley family and the Chinese delegation who had travelled to Canterbury especially for the garden opening. Mr Dalley spoke about the symbolic nature that the garden had for the Hurunui district and Alley’s legacy.
Dame Patsy said she felt privileged to be part of the opening of such an important garden for the district and spoke of the traumatic experiences Alley experienced while in China during World War II and the Chinese revolution.
Dame Patsy and Chinese Consulate-General Wang Zhijian jointly cut the ribbons to open both parts of the garden while Amberley School student Tatiana Austin and Hubei student Dai Wenqi unveiled the new Honghu/Hubei Sister District story board. Hurunui Youth Council chair Nada Symonds and Hubei student Huo Hongyi completed the ceremony, unveiling the new Changping Sister District story board.
Mr Dalley says it was fantastic to have the Governor-General in Amberley to open such a significant landmark that celebrates Rewi Alley’s life and the Hurunui’s sister district relationships with Hubei Province and Changping District that developed as a result of his work.
“In keeping with the character of Rewi Alley, a very humble and modest man, and given the small area of this park, these gardens and the bridge are deliberately modest, but deeply symbolic.
“The concept of the bridge over the stream is to link the two gardens and is also symbolic of the linking of our two districts and nations.
“China is our largest trading partner for agricultural products and increasingly significant to our local tourism industry, so a good economic and cultural relationship is mutually beneficial and I am thrilled the bridge will act as a permanent representation of this.”
People are encouraged people to read the story boards and enjoy the garden and bridge.
The Hurunui district’s connection to Rewi Alley also extended to sheep. Mr Dalley said Alley’s determination to improve the rural economy and the prosperity of the rural Chinese people
led him to import New Zealand Corriedale sheep, donated by Hurunui farmers to China.
Descendants of these sheep were on display at the park, while the library had a woollen carpet on loan from the Canterbury Museum made from wool from the first shipment of sheep.
Hurunui, Selwyn and Christchurch Districts were part of the commermoration with Hurunui’s deputy mayor Marie Black attending the unveiling of a Rewi Alley Statue in Honghu City and commemoration events in Hubei Province last week.