Face Race a huge winner

Winner: Councillor Kevin Watkins, left, receives his winning certificate from regional manager Frank Gibbons on Friday.

Huge accolades have been dished out for Hastings’ world-first competition, The Amazing China Face Race, designed to spark a long-term interest in China in Hastings’ teens.

An added benefit was that for six nights scenery and interviews from Hastings were broadcast by a television station reaching the 10 million people living in Mianyang.

The Amazing China Face Race took top prize in the best youth, education or school project in the national 2017 Sister City Awards on Friday night. Announcing the win, Air New Zealand regional manager Frank Gibbons said the Hastings competition set an extremely high standard and was an example of what could be done with imagination and vision.

The competition saw hundreds of secondary school children hunt for one unnamed person out of the 1.35 billion people in China, with just a photo and a voice recording to go on. They spent two weeks solving clues on things like Chinese geography, history, culture. The answers allowed them to eliminate regions where 'the face' did not live. Once down to that last region, the teens had to use their ingenuity to track down the face: Li Sha.

At the end of the competition, organised by Hastings councillor Kevin Watkins, Li Sha was brought out to New Zealand for a visit and the Hastings student who tracked her down, Nesta Lade, won a trip to China.

Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule said the resulting media coverage for Hastings across what is a very large region in China could not be bought.

"This was a very large project that required many months of work including fundraising, the setting of the questions, the selection of the face, and visits to our 12 secondary schools to encourage the students to participate. The work Kevin has put in cannot be underestimated and the win in the national Sister City competition is well-deserved.

"China is a hugely important market for our region. Kevin has the foresight to know that the relationship between China and Hawke's Bay will depend on the next generation. Getting their interest while they are still in their teens will give our region even greater success in the future."

Mr Watkins said the Amazing China Face Race was the third and most ambitious competition he had run over 11 years. “This was the first time we have had sponsorship from a company in China, which reflects the immense interest in this project over there.

 

"We really could not have done it without the aid of some big hitting sponsors: China-based Guangxi Hongda Asset Services (gold sponsor) and Hastings-based Paritua Vineyards (bronze sponsor). Silver sponsor Air New Zealand paid for the flights for Li Sha and Nesta, and our local paper Hawke's Bay Today published our clues every day.  We also had the assistance of the Foreign Affairs Office in Mianyang and the efforts their television station went to bring a producer over to New Zealand to cover Li Sha's trip and televise it every night was the icing on the cake.”

Will he do it again? "Yes, of course. This gives our secondary school students every opportunity to understand all the dynamics playing out in the new China, and New Zealand/China relationships. When they leave school or university they may well be working for companies dealing with China or working alongside Chinese colleagues. Learning the complexity and the culture of China at an early stage will help them in the work place.”