Much could, and will be, written about John’s long career as a politician and in the public service, but in this column, I would like to pen a more personal reflection.
During John's regular visits to the office, it was always a pleasure to hear about his latest adventures, whether it was tramping in the New Zealand bush or travelling to Java with friends, a trip he did in late 2019. On these visits to the Foundation, he would always wander through the office to chat with staff, and I know they appreciated his relaxed and approachable nature.
John was never one to blow his own trumpet and his contributions to New Zealand have perhaps been undervalued due to the quiet, unassuming way he went about his work.
He was a kind, good, thoughtful man, and I for one will greatly miss his wise counsel.
I extend my personal condolences to Mary and John’s wider family.
Te Waipounamu and Asia
Last month the Foundation released our latest research report, Te Waipounamu and Asia, which looks at South Island business connections with Asia.
The South Island is sometimes overlooked when it comes to New Zealand companies doing business with Asia, so we thought it was time to shine a light on the mainland to establish the breadth and depth of business links and gauge how businesses are engaging with Asia, where they are succeeding and the barriers they face.
We launched the report in Christchurch in October, but unfortunately concerns about Covid scuppered plans to have subsequent events in Nelson, Marlborough, Dunedin, Queenstown and Invercargill. (Unsurprisingly, Covid was identified as one of the big short-to-medium-term challenges facing South Island businesses looking to grow new links with Asia.)
The report builds on the work the Foundation has been doing over the last couple of years to better engage with and represent the South Island, which started with the appointment of Alistair Crozier as South Island establishment manager in early 2020.
We recognised then the ever-increasing importance of Asia to the South Island and the need for us to have a stronger presence there. The report, Te Waipounamu and Asia, is both a continuation of this work and a benchmarking of the business environment. And, perhaps most importantly, the report is a tool for South Island businesses and business leaders to get a better understanding of local trends and gain insights into how they can better engage with Asia.
I encourage you to give the report a read – it makes for interesting reading and not only for South Island businesses; many of the findings will resonate with businesses wherever they are in the country.
SCAPE Public Art
Staying in the South Island, though this time in the arts space, Friday is the opening day of SCAPE Public Art’s 2021 season.
Running from 19 November to 14 January, the works of eight local and international artists will be displayed in public spaces around Ōtautahi Christchurch.
The Foundation has supported SCAPE to bring the works of two artists to New Zealand: Destination by Beijing-based artist Nabuqi and The Circular Ruins by Korean artist Bona Park.
Destination by Nabuqi will be on display at a public location in central Christchurch
As you may have heard me say before, too many New Zealanders still have a tendency to view Asia through a mercantilist lens – seeing the region as a place of business opportunity but failing to look beyond the economics and appreciate the many and diverse cultures.
This is where the arts play such an important role. Those working in the arts will know that Asia is a region of cutting-edge creativity, but many New Zealanders have an antiquated view and still think of Asian arts as perhaps they were 50 or even 100 years ago, failing to realise that some of the most interesting modern art, in all its forms, is coming out of the region.
By shedding light on contemporary Asian art, we hope to challenge these preconceptions and inspire people to look a little deeper and develop their understanding of Asian cultures. So, if you live Christchurch or passing through in the next couple of months, keep an eye out for the installations. You can check out SCAPE’s website to find out where the installation will be located.
Ngā manaakitanga, Simon Draper