Simon Draper's May 2020 update

With the country now at level 2 and most days seeing no new cases of COVID-19 reported, things have begun to return to something more closely resembling life before the virus – the streets are again busy with people, shops are open for business and you can once more sit down for a coffee at your local cafe. However, in truth, things are a long way from back to normal and it is unlikely they will be for some time.
A street with shop fronts and people walking along a footpath

Life in New Zealand is returning to something resembling normal but we've still got a hard road to haul, says Simon Draper

All going to plan, we will shortly be at Level 1, which will see New Zealand ostensibly operating largely as it did before lockdown but in relative isolation from the rest of the world.

In coming months, we may see our island bubble expand to include Australia and our neighbours in the Pacific, and perhaps our governments will extend this bubble to include some Asian countries.

Until then, we will remain in our NZ-only bubble. However, if the last few weeks have taught us anything, it is our ability to keep in touch and, at least for many of us, keep working remotely – utilising the likes of Zoom to bridge the gap.

Having experimented with various platforms over the past few weeks (including facilitating online education workshops for students working from home), next month the Foundation will hold our first public webinars. While meeting face to face is preferable, one positive that has come from lockdown is an increased awareness that online meetings are quite feasible, and even have their advantages.

So, while we may not see many of you in the flesh for some time, hopefully we can connect with you online in the not-too-distant future. Keep an eye on our monthly newsletter and events page for information on upcoming webinars. Once we are in Level 1 and we can guarantee the safety of participants, we will once again look to deliver face-to-face events, though webinars will continue to be an important delivery method, especially for events with international participants.

[The Foundation's first webinar will be held on 4 June and will look at how Auckland's Asian business community will be vital to this country's post COVID-19 recover - find out more and register]

A wushu instructor standing in front of a class demonstrating a stance

Lockdown has meant we've had to look for new ways to provide experiences, such as taking student workshops online

Unfortunately, for many New Zealanders, those working in the tourism industry for example, working remotely is not an option and the impact of COVID-19 will be much greater.

If COVID-19 cases keep tracking as they are and with the government's wage subsidy due to end in September, we are likely to see the country's focus turn from the virus to the economy. It was with this in mind that last month we surveyed some of the Foundation's large network of Asia-based stakeholders to gain a better sense of the current business environment in Asia and how it has been impacted by COVID-19.

We had a fantastic response to the survey and hope the information we gathered will help inform New Zealand's response to the new coronavirus and its financial implications.

As Asia plays such an important role for New Zealand exports, the more knowledge we have from people on the ground in Asia, the better we will be placed to make informed decisions on how, when and where our energies are best placed to make the most of business opportunities in the region. To gauge trends, we will shortly be sending out a follow-up to the first survey.

Our Asia Media Centre has also utilised Foundation connections in Asia to provide insights into how the region is responding to the COVID situation as it unfolds. On the Asia Media Centre website, you can read interviews with New Zealanders living in Asia and get expert commentary on how the virus and its fallout are being tackled.

Next month we will launch our annual Perceptions of Asia survey, which this year will include a mini poll conducted post-COVID-19 that feeds into our wider Perceptions of Asia report.

The findings are largely encouraging – we did not see an upswing in negativity towards Asia that some may have predicted. In fact, the poll told us that 79 percent of New Zealanders agreed it was important for New Zealand to develop political, economic and social ties with Asia, up from 67 percent in November 2019. I'll have more for you on this in next month's newsletter.

Finally, congratulations to all the finalists at the Voyager Media Awards tonight (Friday). Our Asia Media Centre is sponsoring the Best Reporter – Junior category at the awards as part of the Foundation’s longstanding investment in helping New Zealand journalists grow their knowledge and understanding of Asia.

We will be working with the winner on an opportunity to travel to Asia once it is possible. We’re also delighted to see three members of our Leadership Network – Jehan Casinader, Shilo Kino and Julie Zhu – represented as finalists in the various award categories.

 Mā te wā,

 Simon Draper