Simon Draper's March 2021 Update

I wrote February’s Executive Director’s Update while Auckland was in lockdown and the rest of the country was at Level 2. In it, I expressed my hope that the known cases would be isolated ones and we would shortly be back to something more closely resembling normal. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite pan out this way.

The second lockdown of the month really drove home what a fortunate but precarious position we are in as a country and how much we are relying on everyone doing their bit.

It also scuppered a number of planned events around the country, including the cancellation of the Auckland Lantern Festival and the Wellington Japan Festival, and saw the postponement of our Business Interns Reunion, which has been rescheduled for the end of this month.

Of course, these are small frustrations when taking in the big picture, and it was good to see the decisive measures taken curtailed a very worrying situation.

People milling around chatting

There was a great turnout to our Asia After Five event on Monday evening to hear New Zealand's ambassador to Myanmar Steve Marshall speak about the ongoing conflict racking the Myanmar

The past month also brought with it news of New Zealand’s timetable for the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out – a welcome light at the end of the tunnel.

Throughout the world, the delivery of vaccines has become a point of contention, with ‘vaccine diplomacy’ entering the vocabulary to describe the behind-the-scenes machinations of governments as they look to secure supplies for their own populaces and build capital with other countries through supply deals. It’s leading to uneven and inequitable access to vaccines, which ultimately benefits nobody. You can read more on vaccine diplomacy in my latest Stuff column.

Last Friday, the Foundation’s Asia Media Centre welcomed journalists and China experts to the Foundation’s office in Wellington for a half-day workshop looking at issues around reporting on China, and emerging issues in the New Zealand–China relationship.

Three panels of experts discussed media coverage of China, including some of the more challenging topics that sometimes dominate New Zealand media stories – such as the Xinjiang situation and potential interference by China in New Zealand media and politics.

Other topics discussed included the difficulties journalists face when reporting on China, and the impact media reporting on China has on ethnically Chinese New Zealanders.

Journalists from radio, print, TV and online outlets attended what proved to be lively and dynamic event that brought together divergent views and gave those attending plenty to think about.

We’ve found there is demand from New Zealand journalists to know more about the big issues coming out of Asia and events like these give them an opportunity to pick the brains of academics and experts who have made it their lives to understand the region.

Students sitting at their desks looking at a teacher

Our education programme's new Champions initiative will take a more targeted approach to supporting educators to foster Asia-savvy students

The Education team launched its new Champions initiative this month, which will provide support and professional development to leading school educators.

The initiative will see us take a more targeted approach than we have previously offered educators and will involve deeper engagement with participants in the expectation that they will become role models and advocates for the inclusion of Asia into school curriculums.

This initiative came out of a review of the education programme in 2020, which was informed by a series of focus groups and surveys with New Zealand teachers.

We are currently calling for applications, so if you’re an educator or know a teacher who might be interested in becoming a Champion, check out this page for more information. And keep an eye out for our Schools Engagement Project, which we will be launching in coming months.

Another programme that will see big changes in the next month is our business programme. After three years with us, we are farewelling our Director of Business Felicity Roxburgh, who is moving back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Felicity’s role will be taken over by Alistair Crozier - who has been our South Island Establishment Manager since the creation of the role early last year.

While picking up the new role, Alistair will remain in Christchurch and continue overseeing the Foundation’s South Island presence. As a result of these changes, we have an exciting new permanent role, Senior Adviser Business, based in our Auckland office.

It’s been fantastic having Felicity as part of the team. She brought new energy and innovation to our business programme, which I know Alistair is keen to build on. We wish her well on her new adventure.

Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who came along to Tuesday night's Asia After Five event in Wellington to hear from New Zealand's ambassador to Myanmar, Steve Marshall. Steve provided background on the recent coup and proffered fascinating insights into what might happen next as protests continue and the military cracks down. A big thanks to him for his time.

Hei konā mai

Simon Draper