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Last modified: 01 Nov 2022 3:42pm

A line of people standing in front of the Rewi Alley memorial, with two women in traditional Chinese dress in front holding a sign written in Mandarin

Springfield’s Rewi Alley Memorial Park was abuzz with activity on Friday 21 October, as Malvern community came together with special guests to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Rewi Alley’s birth in Springfield.

Members of the Malvern Community Board, Springfield Township Committee, Sister City Committee, and students and principals from Springfield School and Darfield High School were joined by the Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wang Xiaolong and Chinese Consul General Madame He Ying to unveil a new plaque at the memorial park.

Alley, born in 1897, remains one of China’s best-known and loved foreigners, setting up cooperatives and schools in the country. He is also the reason for Selwyn’s Sister City relationship with Shandan in northwest China.

Sister Cities Committee Chair, Allison Rosanowski says the day was a great opportunity to remember Rewi’s contributions.

“It was a moving celebration and it was wonderful to have young people involved, given the legacy Rewi started.”

“He spent many years in China, working first in the fire brigade and then as a factory inspector in Shanghai where he witnessed child labour and became concerned about the plight of young children working in factories,” she says.

“Rewi would go on to establish the Shandan Bailie School, which is now a large vocational college.”

The Chinese Ambassador spoke of Rewi’s time in China, and explained that the primary focus of the celebration was to share the Rewi Alley legacy with young people. He then unveiled the new memorial plaque with the assistance of Springfield School and Darfield High School students. The plaque was made in China and donated by the Christchurch Chinese Consulate.

Members of Rewi’s family, as well as the artist who sculpted the Springfield statue, Lu Boa and her husband also attended the ceremony.

“I’d really like to acknowledge the Springfield community who for 25 years now have kept the legacy of Rewi Alley alive,” Allison says.

Following the ceremony, the guests travelled to Amberley where Rewi spent time as a child.