30 July 2008 - Nearly 800 people converged on Parliament last night to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Croatian settlement in New Zealand hosted by Prime Minister Helen Clark and Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter.
In her welcome, Prime Minister Helen Clark acknowledged the enormous contribution Croatians have made to the economic and social development of New Zealand. She also recognised the struggles that early Croatian settlers faced in the harsh working conditions of the Far North and the social discrimination they experienced as non-Anglo-Saxon settlers.
"Over 100,000 New Zealanders have Croatian heritage. This community has been fundamental in the development of the multi-million dollar New Zealand wine and fishing industries and has contributed in every other field of New Zealand society from politics to sport," said Helen Clark.
"Wine names like Babich, Nobilo, Fistonich and Delegats are household names around the world and the names Siminovich, Talyancich (Talley's) and Vela are synonymous with the fishing industry," said Chris Carter.
In sports, Croatians have been successful in all of our major sporting codes and tennis player Marina Erakovic will represent New Zealand at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
The first settlers came to New Zealand from the Dalmatian coast in 1858. They were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and over successive generations have been known as Dalmatians (Dallies), Yugoslavs and now identify as Croats. "The first Croatians worked as gum-diggers in the swamps of the Far North. Many intermarried with the Māori community and today even Members of Parliament such as Hon Dover Samuels, Hon Shane Jones, Hon Tau Henare and Hon Clem Simich have dual Māori-Croatian heritage.
Members of the Croatian community came from all over New Zealand to Parliament to celebrate the sesquicentennial event. Some, like former Wellington Mayor Sir James Belich, currently holidaying on the Croatian island of Korcula, and Southland Mayor Frana Cardno, sent messages of congratulations.
"The 150 year celebration was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the achievements and unique stories of Croatian New Zealanders," said Chris Carter.
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