S'poreans in NZ urged to retain ties to home

President Tony Tan Keng Yam interacting with Singapore citizens and New Zealanders born in Singapore at a reception for the Singapore community in Christchurch yesterday, during his state visit to New Zealand.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam interacting with Singapore citizens and New Zealanders born in Singapore at a reception for the Singapore community in Christchurch yesterday, during his state visit to New Zealand.PHOTO: MCI

They are important part of wider Singapore community, says President Tony Tan

When an earthquake struck Christchurch city in 2011, Ms Chrislynn Soong combined her Singaporean love of food with her desire to help the community around her.

The lawyer, who moved to New Zealand in 2007 as a student, rallied more than a hundred friends and strangers online to bake snacks and deliver them to volunteers shovelling sewage water out of shattered houses and streets.

"In times of disaster, that's when everyone comes together. It's cool to be accepted as a Singaporean here and to be able to contribute to this community we live in," Ms Soong, 25, said yesterday.

Her actions speak of the strong ties between the people of New Zealand and Singapore, ties acknowledged by President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday even as he urged the Singapore community there to keep in touch with home.

He described the community as a small but active one at a reception during his state visit to the country.

It was attended by about 50 people, mostly Singapore citizens and New Zealanders born in Singapore. There are about 5,400 Singapore-born New Zealanders.

Dr Tan said: "Some of you have been in New Zealand for many years, but continue to retain strong links with Singapore and your fellow Singaporeans in New Zealand."

He cited various Singapore clubs and associations in New Zealand that have organised many events which reflect Singapore's cultural heritage. These include gatherings to celebrate Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and National Day.

One coveted prize at a recent National Day dinner was a Singapore Airlines ticket back to Singapore, noted Dr Tan. "It shows your hearts and stomachs are still rooted to Singapore," he added, to laughter.

"I encourage you to continue keeping up your ties to Singapore... You are an important part of the wider Singapore community," he said.

Ms Sitti Curtis, 50, president of the Singapore Club Christchurch, agrees. Though she became a New Zealand citizen in 1990, she attends as many Singaporean community events as possible because she considers having been Singaporean as part of her identity.

Earlier in the day, Dr Tan had a first-hand look at New Zealand's industries, with visits to a winery and a jet boat manufacturer which supplies the Singapore Police Coast Guard with some patrol boats.

He noted on Facebook that trade and investment between Singapore and New Zealand have grown since their free trade agreement took effect in 2001.

"Trade between our countries would benefit further from the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership," he added, referring to the pact that will liberalise trade across the Asia-Pacific region.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'S'poreans in NZ urged to retain ties to home'. Print Edition | Subscribe