GIANTS | Episode 1: The Chinese Community of Dunedin

From GIANTS, 6:00 am on 15 August 2022

Series Classification: G (General Programmes)

The Chinese-New Zealanders of Dunedin are one of Aotearoa's most established migrant communities.

In this episode, we meet Carol Kaan of the Kaan family catering empire, accountant and former Dunedin Club president Malcolm Wong and the two daughters of pioneering Chinese-Kiwi RNZAF pilot Bill Wong.

The Kaan family

"When I married John, it wasn't considered the done thing. Cultures didn't intermingle" - Coral Kaan

From running market gardens in the 1960s to building a successful family business, the Kaan family have worked hard to ensure a profitable future for their family in New Zealand.  Join Lynsey Kaan as he shows us the workings of his large catering company and how this honours his family's ancestors who worked so hard in years gone by. We learn how harmony was brought to a family steeped in controversy when Lynsey's mother Coral – a Pakehā Kiwi woman – married a Chinese immigrant.

Malcolm Wong

"To retain your Chinese-ness, I think it was difficult for my parents. They wanted to be good New Zealand citizens, and they wanted just to get on with their life. So their Chinese-ness was kept amongst themselves."

Accountant and former president of The Dunedin Club Malcolm Wong describes growing up with his Cantonese parents in a country with a harsh history towards Chinese people. He says Dunedin's popular Chinese Gardens and his own rich relationship with The Dunedin Club are evidence that the Chinese community has come a long way to enjoy a sense of belonging in New Zealand.

Bill Wong and his family

"All those people that did all those long hours working, they all made sure that the next generation didn't have to suffer and work as hard as what they did." - Glenys Wong

Glenys and Carolyn, the daughters of pioneering Chinese-Kiwi RNZAF pilot Bill Wong, tell how their father paved the way for his family to assimilate into New Zealand culture.  In the 1940s, the Wong family ran the Wong Brother's fruit shop which supplied much of Dunedin with fresh fruit and vegetables. Hard work and a pioneering spirit remain central to their continuing success as a family dynasty.

Behind the scenes...

Chinese New Year celebrations in Dunedin

Chinese New Year celebrations in Dunedin Photo: Alex Bradshaw / Fire Fire

Chinese New Year celebrations in Dunedin

Chinese New Year celebrations in Dunedin Photo: Alex Bradshaw / Fire Fire


Every year, families relocate to New Zealand from a diverse range of cultures that share a deep respect for whānau (family), community and whakapapa (ancestry).

In the seven-part video series Giants, we learn how these new New Zealanders see themselves as standing on the shoulders of their ancestors – 'giants' who paved the way for their own descendants to settle here and live lives that are meaningful. Discover how New Zealand's migrant communities are creating a fresh legacy while staying connected to their own cultures.

Episode credits:

Creator - Alex Bradshaw
Producers - Alex Bradshaw and Tara Durrant
Executive Producer - Pietra Brettkelly
Featuring - Malcolm Wong, John Kaan, Coral Kaan, Lynsey Kaan, Glenys Shum, Carolyn King, Georgia Wong

NZ On Air

NZ On Air Photo: NZOA