Mayor Whanau was joined by 26 delegates, among them representatives from Massey University, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Samuel Marsden school, the Phoenix Football Academy, Screen Wellington, Floating Rock Studio, film producers, E2E (Education to Employment) Centre, Te Āti Awa and Wellington City Council staff.
The attending delegates have been blown away by the connections and potential deals made with private and public-sector organisations they would have struggled to have secured alone.
Education has played a starring role in the trip, with visits to four schools and universities, and a pitch session to JJL, the leading education agent in China, which was live-streamed to hundreds of agents around the country.
During the trip Massey University signed a new letter of intent with Xiamen University, which will make it easier for Chinese film students to complete their studies in Wellington at Massey’s new Academy of Screen Arts.
Acting Massey Pro-vice Chancellor Oli Wilson, who signed the agreement, says the relationship between the two schools and other Chinese universities is of significant strategic importance in attracting Chinese students to New Zealand.
“Wellington’s internationally-renowned film industry makes studying film here a highly attractive proposition. Massey’s new academy will also help Chinese students diversify their studies into other areas of the screen industry.”
Mayor Whanau said she wanted a strong focus of the trip to be on education to ensure Wellington re-enters the lucrative international student market as soon as possible.
“Wellington’s universities asked for my help to promote the city as a study destination. China is Aotearoa New Zealand’s top international student market, with international students annually contributing more than $5 billion to our economy pre-Covid. I wanted to make it a top priority for this trip.”
Wellington’s screen sector has also been in the spotlight on the trip, with two projects seeking funding and production partners.
Laurent Herveic, a founder of Pōneke-based VFX Studio Floating Rock, says it has more than 10 different meetings in China and South Korea set up as part of the trip. He is seeking investment for an ambitious new animated TV series aimed at young adults.
Kyōryū (dinosaur in Japanese) is Floating Rock’s first major project based on its own IP, with four others also in development. Aimed at young adults, Kyōryū is about a playful young tyrannosaurus rex, captivated by stories of extinct humans, that sets off on a quest to unravel the mystery of humanity’s downfall.
Laurent Herveic says: “I am very honoured to be part of the delegation. While we have developed Kyōryū to be a series with broad appeal around the world, it has been extremely helpful to have the support of Screen Wellington and Wellington City Council to secure meetings we would have really struggled to get alone. We had a very promising meeting in Beijing with Perfect World studios, one of the largest gaming companies in the world, and they’ve already been in touch to follow-up.”
Film makers Tao Li and Andrew Beattie said the trip couldn’t have been timed better to have follow-up meetings with Chinese investors, for their romantic comedy set in both Xiamen and Wellington that had to pause due to Covid.
The project, One Year to Love, already has New Zealand funding and took a major step forward in securing the remaining investment, following meetings with the Xiamen Media Group, Xiamen Municipal Authority and a Chinese investment firm.
Tao Li said the trip has helped her secure meetings with senior decision-makers in Xiamen. The response was very positive and she believes she’s on track to secure the millions of dollars her company needs to start filming next year.
David Dome, General Manager of the Phoenix Football Club, says the trip has rocketed forward its new international football academy.
“We’ve had meetings that it would have taken us months, if not years, to arrange. We’ve been working this space for 18 months and the engagements we’ve had in all three cities in China have supercharged our efforts. I believe we’ll get back our investment into the trip many times over. Travelling as part of the delegation truly does open doors.”
During the trip, Mayor Whanau also signed updates to Wellington’s sister-city relationships with Xiamen and Beijing. These MOUs are a crucial part of getting the support of the Chinese municipal government to make the right, valuable introductions to Chinese organisations.