How a multigenerational Indian farming family overcame adversity after moving to New Zealand

While nearly every multigenerational farming family in New Zealand has done it tough at some point, the Bindra Singh family have arguably had a harder time than most.

The family has been farming in New Zealand since 1920, and although they're now happy to be here, there haven't always been smiles - they've had to fight for everything they have. There's been discrimination, racism, and the type of Apartheid tactics New Zealanders are more used to seeing overseas.

"What they would've gone through is very difficult to understand," Gurnek Bindra, who is fourth-generation, tells The Project.

Gurnek's great-grandfather Basanta Singh arrived to work in the fields of Pukekohe in 1920, but he and other Indian and Chinese farmers weren't given a warm welcome. They faced discrimination, sanctions against where and how they could farm, and they were restricted to more uneconomic blocks.

And in 1925, a group of farmers and businessmen created the White New Zealand League.

"They used to go to local councils and say 'we don't want any more Chinese, we don't want any more Indians'," says Tim Fulton, author of Kiwi Farmers' Guide to Life.

"They were seen as a scourge, as a real threat."

On December 2, 1925, the Franklin Times published a quote saying: "Pukekohe will soon become a most undesirable place to live in unless the influx of Hindus is checked."

"I was frankly shocked at the level of influence that this White League had, right up to national government level," Fulton says.

The White League managed to get sanctions placed on the Indian and Chinese farmers.

"[They] restricted them going to only one chemist in town, one barber in town, and one shop for groceries," Mohan Singh says.

"Only allowed to go to doctors on a certain day, at a certain time," Gurnek adds.

How a multigenerational Indian farming family overcame adversity after moving to New Zealand
Photo credit: The Project

Fulton says right up to the 1950s, if an Indian even went to the cinema, they weren't allowed to sit with white people.

He's written a book about 25 different farmers from all around the country, but Gurnek's story really stood out from the pack.

"I thought this is incredible, he has a story of triumph over terrible adversity," Fulton says.

In the 1970s, the Bindra Singh's bought a Waikato dairy farm - a piece of their own paradise that they certainly don't take for granted.

"We are reaping the rewards now for what the hardship they've been through," Gurnek says.

"The first people who start it, they're going to do all the hard yards, and the next generation they're going to be a little bit easier, generation after that after that are going to be easier and easier," Mohan says.

Although it might be easier now, those family values of hard work and respect are still a big part of their everyday life.

"There's a meaning there. Those values that they've taught while we're growing up will pay off, and they're the values I want to teach my children," Sundeep Husna Bindra says.

Watch the video above.