Otago and the city of Dunedin have a long history with both Pacific Islands and China.
While some very prominent Pacific Islanders like Fiji’s first prime minister and one of the most prominent Pacific statesmen Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, among several others, call the University of Otago their alma mater, Chinese settlers have made Dunedin and the greater Otago region their home for more than a century.
Those connections have endured and have gone from strength to strength over recent decades.
Last week the Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand team was in Dunedin visiting the University of Otago’s Department of Food Science, which had been commissioned by PTI NZ to conduct research into product development for three Pacific Island companies from Fiji and Tonga (see accompanying story).
While in Dunedin, Michael Greenslade, PTI NZ Trade & Investment Commissioner and Dev Nadkarni Communications Manager and Editor, Pacific Periscope, also caught up with several businesspeople either already engaged or keenly interested in projects in the Pacific Islands region.
Des Adamson, Enterprise Dunedin’s Business Relationship Manager spoke of the city’s growing business ties with the Pacific as well as China. Dunedin City Council’s China Project Manager for Economic Development Hui Zhang was also present for the meeting.
Mr Adamson later arranged an informal meeting with Leonard Cheng, the newly appointed Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Samoa’s historically iconic Aggie Grey Hotel.
The hotel, founded by Aggie Grey in 1933 and which remains one of the most iconic five-star luxury properties in the South Pacific, recently changed hands with the Grey family selling it to a New Zealand based investment, which Mr Cheng is part of.
Though the Sheraton Group has a 20-year contract to run the hotel (of which 19 remain), the asset sale would not affect the Sheraton’s arrangement, Mr Chen said. The sale included all the assets and chattels including the Whitesands Casino located near the Sheraton Faleolo resort location adjacent to Samoa’s international airport.
As well as the Aggie Grey Hotel assets, the sale includes the company’s a five per cent stake in the Sheraton Beach Resort at Faleolo and minor two per cent stake in Virgin Samoa Airline.
Mr Chen said he was hopeful that the prestigious Aggie Grey Hotel acquisition was a precursor to more investments around the Pacific. However, for now the group was focused on growing the hotel and casino business in Samoa, he added.
Samoa has seen a surge in tourist numbers in recent years and enjoys a preferred nation status accorded to it by the Chinese Government, potentially opening it up to greater numbers of tourists from China. In less than a year, the country will host the Pacific Games (formerly called the South Pacific Games). It earlier hosted the games in 2007 for which significant new sporting and hospitality infrastructure was built.
While in Dunedin, the PTI team also met up with Dougal McGowan, Chief Executive of the Otago Chamber of Commerce, who also spoke of the city’s growing business connections with the Pacific and China. Mr McGowan said he would be keen to work together with PTI on any projects in the Pacific Islands region.
Mr Greenslade said working with New Zealand’s regions was part of PTI New Zealand’s strategy for a regionally inclusive approach to bridge business initiatives with the Pacific Islands outside of the Auckland region.
While in the city, PTI took the opportunity to visit the offices of the iconic Otago Daily Times, New Zealand’s only independent newspaper group and met with the senior management team including Chairman and Managing Director Sir Julian Smith, Director Nick Smith and Group Advertising Manager Paul Dwyer and introduced the team to PTI’s activities and the Otago University project.
For more information email PTI NZ Communications, Marketing and Research Manager Dev Nadkarni at firstname.lastname@example.org