New Leadership Network members
to help drive NZ's relationship with Asia

Nearly 50 top young leaders have joined the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Leadership Network, aiming to further develop their leadership skills and their knowledge of Asia.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whitau Tūhono 2019 group of Leadership Network inductees

The new members come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds and have their own motivations for increasing their understanding of Asia. But they are united by a shared enthusiasm for learning more about the region and for building connections between New Zealand and Asia.

The Foundation welcomed the new members into the network at an induction in Wellington in late May. They shared their stories, discussed ways to increase understanding and knowledge of Asia in New Zealand, and discussed their leadership aims and challenges. Established Leadership Network member Vanisa Dhiru, President of the National Council of Women of New Zealand, also shared her own leadership journey with the group.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation's Leadership Network was created in 2006 and helps equip the next generation of New Zealand leaders to thrive in Asia. The new members join more than 450 existing members.

Foundation director of leadership and entrepreneurship Adam McConnochie says the network is full of high achievers.

“We need the next generation of Kiwi leaders to understand Asia. We need them to be confident leaders who can and will drive how New Zealand engages with Asia now and the future. To this end, we provide a number of opportunities to learn and grow as leaders and to engage with Asia and people from Asia.

“We received almost 200 applications to the network this year, which shows us that young Kiwis are increasingly getting the message that Asia is crucial to New Zealand's future.“

Māori Television’s Talisa Kupenga (Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-mate) joined because she was fascinated by Asia but felt she didn’t know enough about the region.

“I know there are cultural connections between Māori and Asian communities through history, migration, business and otherwise – but we don’t necessarily see how those relationships are growing in modern times." 

She sees the opportunities to report on how Māori and indigenous people in Asia are connecting to create innovative solutions to issues. “I think that this connectedness is really what I wanted to explore more, and be able to share with audiences who want to know more.”

As a Korean New Zealander, Auckland's Raphael Jo, a BA/LLB student, sees the network as an opportunity to gain leadership skills for his community.

“A lot of my leadership journey has been me experimenting through trial and error about what works and what doesn’t work and trying to empower my community in various ways.

“I felt like the Asia New Zealand Foundation could give me some guidance about how I could better be a leader and lead my ethnic community into empowering themselves – and how to bridge a gap in the relationship Asia and New Zealand may have.”

For clinical psychologist Lizzie MacLean (Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Pūkenga), gaining a better understanding of the needs of minority groups in relation to New Zealand’s mental health system is a driver for her interest in Asia. 

"I wanted to join the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network because I'm really passionate about the interplay in mental health between Maori communities, Pasifika communities and also the Asian communities.”

Wellington student Peter McKenzie started studying Mandarin Chinese seven years ago – and sees the Leadership Network as an opportunity to indulge his passion for the language and learn more about history and culture in Asia.

“It seemed full of these incredible people from all aspects of New Zealand society – and I really wanted to be a part of it and to learn from those people.”

Asia is relevant to his future “in every way possible”, he says. “It’s an incredible opportunity – the business side of it is booming and there’s these incredible cultural explosions of theatre, music and arts.
“Whether it’s for business, pleasure or self-development, Asia in general and China in particular offers this incredibly rich canvas.” 

Auckland mechanical engineering student Tharaka Munidasa has recently returned from Sri Lanka, where he started a volunteering programme. He has also spent time on study abroad experiences in China, Japan, the United States – and says each of these travel experiences has given him new insights and ways of thinking. 

He was impressed by the diversity of his fellow Leadership Network members. “When you're around such a diverse set of people they almost change your mindset in a way.  When I'm collaborating with people I'll be able to think of better ideas – and maybe help them think of better ideas. That's going to be really powerful with this network in the future because we're actually going to make a change." 

The new Leadership Network members are:

  • Laura Ansell, Wellington
  • Fatumata Bah, Auckland
  • Jaemen Busby, Wellington
  • Carrie Bryers, Whangarei
  • Elora Chang, Dunedin 
  • Marcus Coll, Christchurch
  • Amanda Cundy, Wellington
  • Hannah Duder, Christchurch
  • Irihapeti Edwards, Whangarei
  • Amarind Hun Eng, Wellington 
  • Liam Finnigan, Auckland
  • Rez Gardi, currently in the US studying at Harvard Law School 
  • Campbell Gin, Wellington 
  • Jacinta Gulasekharam, Wellington
  • Lewis Hampton, Auckland
  • Raphael Jo, Auckland
  • Katie Kenny, Wellington 
  • Nidha Khan, Auckland
  • Shilo Kino, Mt Maunganui
  • Sean Kinsella, Palmerston North
  • Talisa Kupenga, Wellington
  • Frances Lowe, Auckland
  • Rose Lu, Wellington 
  • Tessa Ma'auga, Palmerston North
  • Tim Marshall, Christchurch
  • Siosaia Mataele, Wellington
  • Peter McKenzie, Wellington 
  • Elizabeth McLean, Wellington
  • Olivia Meikle, Wellington
  • Ali Moulvi, Auckland
  • Tharaka Munidasa, Auckland
  • Veena Patel, Wellington 
  • Celeste Peh, Auckland
  • Sarah Pereira, Wellington
  • Josh Proctor, Christchurch
  • Yobithan Rajaratnam, Auckland
  • Ruby Sands, Wellington
  • Mackenzie Smith, Auckland
  • Brittany Stewart, Palmerston North
  • Crystal Tawhai, Waikato
  • Masina Taulapapa, Wellington
  • Brittany Teei, Auckland
  • Kajol Thanki, Wellington
  • Michelle Too, Wellington
  • Kate Underwood, Auckland
  • Antonia Verstappen, Auckland
  • Laura Walters, Wellington
  • Sinead Watson, Auckland
  • Megan Wilson, currently in Tokyo on a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia
  • Julie Zhu, Auckland