Simon Draper's November 2020 Update

I recently read an article that described how COVID had changed people’s perceptions of time. Twitter jokes during lockdown like “What a year this week has been” or the introduction of ‘Blursday’ into the working week were very apt. Then suddenly, so it seems to me, here we are six weeks away from the titular end of 2020. And while we all have hopes for 2021 not being a repeat of 2020, it is clear that this pandemic has some time to go yet.

Like many around the globe, I was frequently refreshing web pages during the US election to see how the electoral college votes were going.  Then, and subsequently, I’ve said a silent thank you to the architects of New Zealand’s parliamentary system, grateful we have the ability to update our system so that the election date is not, as it is in the US, designed around a farmer being able to harvest, go to church on Sunday and travel by horse and cart to a polling booth.

Foundation Honorary Advisers Philip Burdon, Trish Carter and Manying Ip

Foundation Honorary Advisers Philip Burdon, Trish Carter and Manying Ip

Closer to home, I met with our New Zealand Honorary Advisers in October to update them on Foundation activities, tap their knowledge and expertise and simply to catch up with some good friends of the Foundation.

The Foundation's Honorary Advisers are individuals who hold key positions in business, academia, community and other sectors. Between them, they possess a wealth of experience, which the Foundation calls upon to help steer our course. The mana they hold in their respective areas opens doors and is vital for the Foundation to achieve our mandate of ‘equipping New Zealanders to thrive in Asia’.

It goes without saying that COVID-19 and the course New Zealand takes towards reopening borders and re-engaging internationally was front and foremost at the meeting. The insights the Honorary Advisers provided will help greatly with how the Foundation operates in months ahead and the messaging we provide the government. So, a big thanks to them all – what we do would not be possible without their insights and mahi.

An infographic showing trade between New Zealand and Vietnam

Viet Nam report highlights New Zealanders' need to update their perception of the country 

Speaking of relationships with Asia, this week the Foundation launched our latest research report Viet Nam – Let’s Go! The report, by former New Zealand Ambassador to Viet Nam Haike Manning, looks at New Zealand and Viet Nam’s relationship and how it has developed over the years.

One of the Foundation’s ongoing refrains is that New Zealanders need to update their perceptions of Asia, and Viet Nam is no exception. Viet Nam has been one of Southeast Asia’s success stories over the past 25 years, boasting the second fastest growing economy in the world, built on thriving tech and manufacturing sectors.

And Viet Nam is an increasingly important country for New Zealand, not only economically, where we see two-way trade is now worth over two billion dollars, but also culturally and socially. The success the country has had tackling Covid-19 means if New Zealand is to create bubbles with other countries, Viet Nam could be one of the first.

For those of you in Wellington on the 19th of this month, come along to our Asia After Five event and hear from one of the Foundation’s Honorary Advisers Mitchell Pham who will be sharing his personal and professional perspectives on New Zealand’s relationship with Viet Nam. Mitchell is a Vietnamese New Zealander and leading business, technology and social entrepreneur with extensive knowledge of the New Zealand–Viet Nam relationship.

Happy Diwali!

This year Diwali is officially marked on 14 November, though celebrations have already started around the country. The Foundation is a founding partner of Auckland Diwali, having been there since the festival’s outset in 2002. This year, rather than being held over a weekend around Aotea Square as usual, due to Covid precautions the festival is now being held in smaller venues throughout the city. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to get along to one of the events. Auckland Diwali wraps up on Saturday, so if you haven’t done so yet, check out the programme to see what’s happening in your area.

Watch a short clip to get a taste of Diwali

Welcome to our new Minister

Last, but not least, we’re looking forward to working with Aotearoa’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Nanaia Mahuta, who is the Foundation’s Minister and chair of our network of New Zealand and Asia Honorary Advisers.

Ngā mihi,

Simon Draper