Simon Draper's July 2023 Executive Directors Update

The upcoming month holds a series of significant "lasts" for me at the Foundation. As I check them off, the reality of moving on will undoubtedly become more palpable. Although I plan to reserve deeper reflections on my time here until my August update, my final one, I cannot overlook the importance of acknowledging my last Honorary Advisers meetings and expressing gratitude to those who compose this vital component of the Foundation and our mission.
Simon Draper and Sir Anand Satyanand

Executive Director Simon Draper and Honorary Adviser Sir Anand Satyanand

Our Honorary Advisers consist of influential leaders from various fields across New Zealand and Asia, holding key positions in business, government, academia, and the community. They play a crucial role in providing the Foundation with perspectives and advice on New Zealand's relationships within the region. Moreover, they are instrumental in facilitating our networks and connections, helping us fulfil our mandate of empowering New Zealanders to thrive in Asia.

This month, we brought together our New Zealand Honorary Advisers for meetings in Auckland and Wellington. During these gatherings, we delved into key Foundation activities, such as the recently published Perceptions of Asia report and the ongoing Seriously Asia programme of work. I also had the opportunity to brief them on what was top of mind for their Asia counterparts, following the Asia Honorary Advisers meeting in Singapore in March.

As always, it was a pleasure to reconnect with them all. While I will have the chance to meet many of them in person before my time at the Foundation concludes, I want to take this moment to publicly express my heartfelt gratitude for their unwavering commitment to the Foundation. For some, their dedication has spanned back to the very founding of this organisation, and their contributions have been invaluable throughout the years.

A group of eleven people sitting in a darkened room watching a video play on a projector screen

The Honorary Advisers meetings were a chance to bring them up to date with some of the important programmes of work the Foundation is currently undertaking

Two days after the Auckland Honorary Advisers meeting, I was back in Auckland to attend the Leadership Network’s Tāngata Moana Hui at the University of Auckland’s Fale Pasifika. The hui was developed and facilitated by Tāngata Moana Leadership Network members and was also attended by Board members Paul Morgan and Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i, with Tupe facilitating a panel discussion looking at geo-political challenges and leadership in a pacific context. 

The hui was a chance to acknowledge our place in the Pacific and the history, knowledge and value systems that are unique to the region.

One of the things I am most proud of during my time at the Foundation is seeing the Leadership Network expand to become more representational of New Zealand society and become a place where Māori and Pacific peoples have a voice. Tāngata Pacific connections to Asia run deep and the perspectives they bring to the network makes it a richer community with broader perspectives on how New Zealand can develop its connections to Asia.

A woman wearing a headscarf listening to a woman with a flower in her hair in a hall with tapa cloth on the walls

The hui was a chance to acknowledge our place in the Pacific and the history, knowledge and value systems that are unique to the region

Staying in Auckland, it was good to hear from a wide range of business speakers about China at the China Business Summit 2023, which was held in Auckland earlier this week. As a sponsor, the Foundation helped bring Singaporean trade expert Andrew Tan to share his insights on how Singapore is managing its business relations with China. The panel discussion, titled Navigating uncertainties, seizing opportunities and forging new partnerships provided some fascinating insights and was very well received by those in attendance.

For all you teachers out there, I’d like to draw your attention to our recently launched education resource Making connections: Aotearoa New Zealand and Asia. One of my mantras at the Foundation has been that while it might be difficult to get old codgers like myself to change their perspectives on the importance of Asia to New Zealand’s future, it only takes a spark to ignite the curiosity of our younger generations; a curiosity that can lead to them developing the understanding and skills that are imperative for New Zealand’s success in the region in years to come. We hope this will be one such spark.  

Finally, with the Women’s Football World Cup being held in New Zealand and Australia over July and August, I want to encourage you all to get along to a game. The Foundation is pleased to be bringing musicians from the Vietnamese, Philippines and Japanese communities to the Live Stage programme at the FIFA Fan Festival at The Cloud on Auckland’s waterfront.

I do hope everyone had a fantastic Matariki weekend and got to spend it with friends and whānau.  

Ngā mihi nui,

Simon Draper