Simon Draper's May 2022 Update

Last week’s government announcement that New Zealand borders will be fully reopening to international visitors by the end of July will, no doubt, have been received with a sigh of relief by many, and some apprehension by others.

Though it’s still a few months away, we at the Foundation are looking forward to once again being able to bring guests from Asia to New Zealand to help build New Zealander’s understanding of the region. At the risk of sounding like a broken record – Zoom is great, but there’s nothing like face-to-face connections to establish relationships and share ideas.  

Going in the other direction, this month Foundation staff will be heading to Asia for the first time in over two years.  

On Friday, I will be heading to South Korea and Thailand with the Foundation’s senior adviser research Dr James To. We will be meeting with stakeholders, friends of the Foundation and partners to re-establish connections and discuss future collaborations.

And in June the Foundation’s Chair Dame Fran Wilde will be joining director research and engagement Suzannah Jessep in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to meet with stakeholders and attend the inter-governmental security forum, the Shangri-La Dialogue. Suz, who is a former Deputy High Commissioner to India, will then continue on to Delhi and Mumbai for further engagements.      

It’s been a long hiatus between visits, and I know it won’t be a matter of simply picking up from where we left off – too much has happened in the interim. So, it will be interesting to hear from our stakeholders and get their take on where things stand with our (both the Foundation’s and New Zealand’s) relationships in the region and how to best progress them going forward. I look forward to reporting back to you about what we learned in next month’s Executive Director's Update.  

The first Foundation grantees to head to Asia since before COVID will also be heading offshore in the next couple of months. Our media programme is currently in the process of awarding Foundation media grants and are expecting the first journalists to be winging their way to Asia shortly, where they will be covering stories relevant to a New Zealand audience.

Closer to home (online), late last month the Foundation, in cooperation with the New Zealand India Research Institute (NZIRI), held its fifth Track II roundtable dialogue with the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA). This online event came after a two-year gap (our last exchange was back in April 2019) and served to continue the topical conversations around how big regional issues were being interpreted as well as the state of our bilateral relationship.

Shortly after I return from South Korea and Thailand, I will be joining seven other staff for a six-week full-time intensive course learning te reo Māori through Victoria University. The first cohort of staff undertook the course earlier this year and are keeping things fresh with twice-weekly revision sessions.  

It’s been 30 years since I studied Korean as the first New Zealand government designated Korean speaker, so I’ll be utilising parts of my brain that have been dormant for some time. It will be a challenge, but an important one.

Over the last few years, we have come a long way at the Foundation in acknowledging and incorporating te reo and te ao Māori in our kaupapa and, while we are still in the early stages of this journey, I am personally proud of the progress we have made. Upskilling staff in their understanding of te reo is the latest step in this journey.  

Hei konā mai 
Simon Draper