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Auckland's Chinese Lantern Festival on the move

Lincoln Tan

4 Jan 2016

Auckland's Chinese Lantern Festival will this year be moving from Albert Park, where the event has been held since it started 16 years ago.

An Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development spokesman said the decision to find a new location was jointly made with co-organisers Asia New Zealand Foundation "given the festival's size and growth year on year."

"Our preferred location is the Auckland Domain, although we are awaiting final planning consents, which we expect by the middle of this month," the spokesman said.

The festival's five-year resource consent for Albert Park also expired after last year's event.

The Lantern Festival has been part of Chinese New Year celebrations since the Han Dynasty (206BC - 221AD), and is usually held on the 15th day of the lunar calendar to mark the end of new year festivities.

The festival was held in Auckland for the first time in 2000, pieced together from second hand lanterns from Singapore's Jurong Gardens.

Now, lanterns - with new designs included every year - filling about 20 shipping containers are displayed at each festival.

"The Albert Park site is a victim of the Lantern Festival's success and has become rather congested," said Chinese community leader Arthur Loo, past chairman of the Auckland Chinese Community Centre.

"Moving to the Domain will open it up and enable the event to accommodate more people, but I don't know how it will feel in an "open field" situation."

Mr Loo said the available trees at Albert Park to hang lanterns gave it a "natural feel" and the "crush of people" made it feel like being in Asia.

The proximity to the CBD also gave it "a cosmopolitan feel" and being part of the city.

"Events have to evolve...the Domain will probably improve on access issues and parking and transport might be less of a problem if people use trains and buses," Mr Loo said.

"Let's give it a go and see how it pans out."

NZ Chinese Language Week Trust co-chairman Raymond Huo said it was "sensible" to move the festival to a bigger place.

"It is a reality as it grows bigger it is sensible to move to a bigger venue," the former Labour MP said.

The lantern festival this year will be held from February 18 to 21 as part of the Year of the Monkey Chinese New Year celebrations.

International acts performing at the festival include a magician and strongman act from Guangzhou Acrobatic Arts Theatre, puppeteers from Shanghai Puppet Theatre, the Guangdong Philharmonic Choir and Chinese rock band Second Hand Rose.

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