Simon Draper's February 2023 Update

Last year saw Foundation staff travelling to Asia for the first time since the onset of Covid – to reconnect with partner organisations and explore new collaborations and opportunities in the region. If 2022 was about scouting opportunities, 2023 will be about seeing those opportunities bear fruit.

Offshore events we have coming up in the next two to three months include our Asia Honorary Advisers meeting in Singapore; the Leadership Network Singapore Hui; a summit in Thailand for alumni of the Foundation's Young Business Leaders Initiative; and a visit to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand for emerging Māori food and beverage business leaders.

And that's just the first few months – the rest of the year is looking equally as busy, with a good number of Foundation activities planned for both Asia and at home.

I’ll talk about the above activities in future ED Updates, but a quick mention of the Asia Honorary Advisers' meeting is worth noting here. Our Asia Honorary Advisers are a group of eminent people working in various sectors across 12 countries who provide the Foundation with insights and advice, and advocate on our behalf. Relationships and creating connections are at the heart of the Foundation's mahi and our Asia Honorary Advisers play a pivotal role in our outreach into the region.

The Singapore meeting will bring the Asia Honorary Advisers together in one place for the first-time since 2018, to discuss the Foundation’s work in the region and consider how they can help us with the work we do. They will be joined in Singapore by members of the Foundation’s senior leadership team and board members.

I’m looking forward to hearing their insights into how their respective countries have changed since the onset of Covid, and getting their advice on how the Foundation can best reconnect with the region after such a long time since we’ve had feet on the ground.

As I write this, the first business interns to undertake their internships in Asia since 2020 are in the region, soaking up the culture of their host country and putting their academic studies to use in the real world. They will return - be it from South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore or Thailand - with skills, knowledge and experiences that will prove invaluable throughout their careers.

Meeting former interns from over the years at our business interns’ reunion in 2021 really brought home to me just how life changing these experiences can be. You’ll be able to read accounts from this year's cohort about their internship experiences on the Foundation website over the next couple of months.

A group of about 20 young business interns posing

This year's cohort of business interns at the pre-departure briefing in November last year

Closer to home, Auckland Lantern Festival, which was to be held last weekend, was cancelled due to the atrocious weather that has been battering Auckland recently. It's a real shame, especially after the festival's three year hiatus due to Covid and with the festival moving south from the Domain to a new location and new audience in Manukau.

However, with the weather playing havoc across the region and with damage to the Manukau Sports Bowl, where the festival was to be held, it was the prudent and right decision. Our thoughts go out to everyone in Auckland and elsewhere in the country that has been affected by the recent weather events. 

I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome, and introduce to you, the Foundation's new Kaitohutohu Matanga Māori | Chief Adviser Māori Veronica (Ronnie) Thompson. Veronica will be leading the Foundation's drive to reach more Māori, especially young Māori, and will guide the organisation as we continue our journey towards further incorporating te ao Māori into our kaupapa.

Veronica joins us from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and has a background in health, community, youth and Māori development. She is a keen sportswoman, having represented New Zealand at basketball (I know our sports adviser Kirsty Sharp is particularly excited about having Veronica join the team).

Our research has shown that Māori have an edge when engaging with Asia and are already leading the way in a number of sectors. With Veronica's help, we will be able to both facilitate further connections and leverage the expertise Māori have in engaging with Asia to benefit all New Zealanders.

Lastly, congratulations to Asia New Zealand Foundation trustee Paul Morgan and Honorary Adviser Mitchell Pham who were recognised in the 2023 New Year Honors.

Paul was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for services to Māori and business and Mitchell was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for his services to the technology sector and New Zealand-Asia relations. Well done to them both – two very deserving members of the Foundation whanau.

I’ll sign off by wishing you all the best for the year of the rabbit – may it be an auspicious and adventure-filled year for you.

Mā te wā

Simon Draper