Simon Draper's June 2023 Update

This month has certainly built on the momentum of a busy first quarter. The groundwork we laid throughout 2022 is well and truly delivering results as every programme area is picking up pace. There’s been plenty of inbound and outbound activity, particularly for our business, entrepreneurship and arts programmes.

On Wednesday, we released the Foundation’s annual New Zealander's Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples report report, which reveals that Asia is increasingly front and centre in the minds of New Zealanders, with eight out of ten New Zealanders responding that ties with Asia are important to our future. In fact, two-thirds say that building relationships with Asia is even more important than it was five years ago.

Watch this slideshow for infographics depicting some of the key takeaways from this year's Perceptions of Asia report

Now in its 26th year, the survey provides comprehensive insights into New Zealanders' awareness of and interest in a wide range of topics, from geopolitics and trade to sports and popular culture.  
Asia-related skills and capabilities are seen as important for New Zealand’s future workforce and there’s strong support for related subjects (such as languages) to be taught in our schools. The survey also illustrates the influence and popularity of people-to-people links such as popular culture (television, movies, music and games), art, literature and sport. 
The majority of New Zealanders (93 percent) consider business and trade at least somewhat important for developing Aotearoa’s relationships with Asia. It's also encouraging to see that 56 percent of New Zealanders feel immigration from Asia will have a positive impact on the country in the coming years. Food, travel and commerce were the top three Asia interests. 

Ukraine and Taiwan hot topics at Singapore's Shangri-La Dialogue 

I kicked off the month in Singapore, attending the 2023 Shangri-La Dialogue. Hosted by Foundation Honorary Adviser Singaporean Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen, it is the premier security conference of our region.

As with last year, front and centre was the war in Ukraine, and what lessons it may hold in our region should there be conflict over Taiwan.  

New Zealand Defence Minister Andrew Little met with his counterparts from China, Singapore, the UK and Ukraine, and the Foundation had a chance to brief him on our observations.

The defence summit also tackled the issues of cybersecurity, military capability development and the nuclear dimensions of regional security.

It was a sobering meeting, reinforcing that the risk of conflict continues on a trajectory that no one welcomes.

Entrepreneurs build networks in Singapore and Thailand

Offshore activity has been at the forefront of the Foundation over the past few weeks, with our business programmes leading two delegations into the region.

The Maori food and beverage entrepreneurs boarding a bus in Thailand

It was a busy ten days of travel and industry visits for the F&B entrepreneurs

Our first post-Covid offshore business delegation was a nine-strong Food and Beverage delegation of emerging Māori business leaders to Singapore last month, led by senior business adviser Ethan Jones and chief advisor Māori Veronica Thompson.  
The delegates were chosen to represent a range of innovative businesses, such as seafood, dairy, F&B tech services and non-alcoholic beverages.

Their itinerary, which was designed to foster insight and collaboration, included the Singapore Food Agency, Shiok Meats, food testing company FoodPlant, logistics companies, importers and major supermarket chains.

We know that Māori business owners have a cultural edge when it comes to engaging with Asia, so it was encouraging for the team to see this in practice.   
From Singapore, the group travelled on to Thailand, where they joined 75 leading entrepreneurs and emerging business leaders from New Zealand and Southeast Asia for the Young Business Leaders Initiative (YBLI) Summit. This four-day event, led by our director of business, Nick Siu, explored new industry connections and innovative regional trends, networking with local business leaders and NZ Inc representatives.  
We’ve been grateful for the positive feedback, from both New Zealand and ASEAN participants whose regional engagement will bear fruit in the months and years ahead. 

Southeast Asian agribusiness entrepreneurs visit Fieldays and more

We also hosted our first inbound entrepreneurship event since 2019, with the arrival of an eight-strong agribusiness delegation from ASEAN.

This mid-June programme included events in Auckland and attendance at Fieldays in Hamilton – the largest agricultural event in the Southern Hemisphere, which showcases a diverse array of innovation, technology and sustainable agriculture initiatives.

Three of the visiting agribusiness entrepreneurs being interviewed by Simon Bridges

Three of the visiting agribusiness entrepreneurs being interviewed by CEO of Auckland Business Chamber Simon Bridges

They also visited the E Tipu Boma Agri Summit in Christchurch, which attracts hundreds of participants each year and has been described as “TED for the food and fibre industries”. This summit focuses on responses to changing global conditions such as technology, finance and supply chain solutions.   
On top of this, members of the delegation participated in the inaugural event of our Aspire Asia Aotearoa thought leadership series, in partnership with the Auckland Chamber of Commerce. Keynote speakers Brian Cu and Dr Sandhya Sriram were joined by a panel of sector-leading innovators from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Topics discussed included new technologies, innovative practices, sustainability, vertical farming and cell-based cuisine. If you missed this Future of Consumption online summit, you can view the sessions here:

Director arts builds networks in Taiwan

Last month, our director of arts, Craig Cooper, was invited to join the Taiwan Ministry of Culture Southeast Asia Advisory Committee. He met with fellow committee members (from countries such as India, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia) at the National Taiwan Museum to discuss the promotion of traditional arts, narratives in an era of change and the future of art and cultural exchange.   

Director Arts Craig Cooper speaking on a panel with the words 'We Art Together on the wall behind him

Director Arts Craig Cooper speaking at Taiwan Ministry of Culture South East Asia Advisory Culture Forum

The trip provided an opportunity for Craig to visit Taitung County, which is home to Taiwan’s indigenous arts space and a community keen to connect with indigenous communities throughout the Asia Pacific region. He observed that the Taiwan government has invested heavily in its arts infrastructure over the last decade by developing cutting-edge facilities such as the Taitung Indigenous Cultural and Creative Industries Park, the National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts and the Taipei Performing Arts Centre.  
Craig also met with indigenous Taiwanese artist Lafin Sawmah, from the Amis Tribe, who is reviving the art of waka making in his east coast workshop. Lafin has a strong interest in New Zealand, as he was a guest last year of the Govett-Brewster  Gallery in New Plymouth and will be returning to Aotearoa in 2024.  

PM to formally renew connections with China

And to round off a hectic June, this month will conclude with the first visit to China led by a New Zealand Prime Minister since 2019. The delegation, which will include our Chair Dame Fran Wilde, will visit Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai from 25 to 30 June.

The purpose of the visit is to formally renew government-to-government relations following the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic.  

The objectives of the trip include the renewal of two-way trade and investment, the resumption of existing relationships (particularly in the dairy, tourism, education, and gaming sectors) and the diversification of export opportunities to China – which are currently worth NZ$20 billion per annum. 

Looking ahead, this weekend the Foundation’s Leadership Network will be holding a Tangata Moana hui at the University of Auckland’s Fale Pasifika. Involving nearly 50 Leadership Network members, this hui will provide opportunities to learn about the Pacific region and connect with Asia. 
So much being done and much ahead.  Exciting times! 
Ngā mihi nui, 
Simon Draper