Simon Draper's December 2022 Update

Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete ki a koutou. Our third year of living with Covid meant 2022 has been another somewhat disrupted and unpredictable year. It’s important to acknowledge the personal toll the past few years have had on people, and to celebrate the wins that we have been able to achieve during this time as well.

Watch a slideshow of images showing some of the activities the Foundation has held and supported this year

At the Foundation, one key development of 2022 was again being able to support people to undertake experiential in-country opportunities in Asia, an important component of our mahi. Over the last few months, we’ve provided travel grants for journalists to cover stories from Asia, funded school sports teams to experience cultural activities while competing in Asia and farewelled the first of this year’s cohort of interns who will be interning with companies and organisations in Asia over the New Zealand summer. So, things are returning to something more closely resembling pre-Covid normal.

I’m aware that much of what was previously considered BAU now looks different and can be a bit more complicated. To our new staff, those who have joined us since the onset of Covid, the Foundation's BAU is something of a novelty and something new to get their heads around.

The end-of-year brings with it an opportunity to reflect on the Foundation’s activity over the past 12 months, and I’m pleased to see how much we have achieved.

Some key highlights include:

Delivering Seriously Asia Revisited. This has included finalising four papers on New Zealand-Asia connections from the perspective of society and culture; trade, tourism and investment; sustainable development and innovation; and politics and security. These papers will provide an extensive analysis of New Zealand-Asia relations and will form the basis of a series of recommendations for strengthening New Zealand’s connections to Asia over coming decades.

Watch this video to get a taste of the conversations that were had at the four regional Seriously Asia Revisited hui

As part of the Seriously Asia Revisited project, we ran hui in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown to hear the thoughts of informed voices and industry experts on how best to progress this country’s relationships with the region. The hui also had the effect of lifting the profile of the Foundation as New Zealand’s leading authority on Asia and helped grow knowledge, widen perspectives and connect people.

This year, staff were given the opportunity to improve their understanding and knowledge of te reo Māori, as part of the Foundation’s commitment of incorporating te reo and te Ao Māori into our Kaupapa. We had 15 staff undertake a month-long, full-time language course through Kāpuhipuhi Wellington Uni Professional. It was pleasing to see staff throw themselves into the learning experience with gusto and really advance their reo understanding.

Foundation staff receiving their te reo certificates

Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Reo class of 2022

We welcomed around 50 new members to our Leadership Network, and successfully held a range of Leadership Network events and opportunities across the country, including the Otago History Hui, which saw a group of network members visit Otago to learn about the history of early Chinese settlers to the region, the difficulties they encountered and legacy they left.

In the research space, we marked 25 years of our Perceptions of Asia report with the launch of the 2021 report in June and launched our Sports Research report in November. Feedback from the sports report was positive, with many similar themes to the Seriously Asia Revisited conversations: relationships are important; Asia is highly diverse and should be treated as such; and New Zealanders can do better at preparing its sports people to succeed in Asia.

After being rescheduled twice due to Covid, the Arts Reunion was at last able to proceed in October and was a great success. The reunion brought together over 40 arts practitioners who had participated in the Foundation’s arts programme over the years. It provided an opportunity to reconnect and consider ways the Foundation can keep supporting New Zealand arts practitioners to bring Asia into the New Zealand arts space. It also provided an opportunity to showcase this year's IN TOUCH Arts Commissions - short digital art works the Foundation commissioned with the express purpose of sharing on digital media.

Watch a slideshow of images from the Foundation's Arts Reunion

We’ve supported several events that have enabled us to extend our networks, grow Asia knowledge and awareness among New Zealanders and, as mentioned above, we’ve finally been able to start sending people to the region again. In the first instance, we had staff travel offshore to reconnect with the Foundation’s wider whānau and stakeholders and lay the groundwork for programme activities for the year ahead.

There is more connection with Asia to look forward to in 2023, as planning begins for entrepreneurship, Leadership Network, and Track II programmes to lead delegations to Asia.

Back on the home front, we’re sad to say farewell to our director education Sean O’Connor, who is returning to the classroom in 2023 to teach economics. Sean has been with the Asia New Zealand Foundation for eight-and-a-half years and has been an integral part of the education programme and wider Foundation team. We wish him well on his new venture, and we look forward to meeting some of his Asia-equipped students down the line!

As always, the Annual Report (PDF - 7.3MB)  is another good reminder of how much activity the Foundation has undertaken, and we end the year with increased optimism about renewed activity in 2023.

I’d like to wrap up by wishing you all a relaxing break over the Christmas period, whatever that may look like for you.

Noho ora mai

Simon Draper