Simon Draper's October 2020 Update

The opening of our formal presence in the South Island was the highlight of the past few weeks at the Foundation.
Alistair speaking from a podium

Alistair Crozier speaking at the opening of the Foundation's South Island office

Of course, we have been active in the Te Waipounamu for many years, most notably as founding partner of the South Island Lantern Festival, but it has always been from afar. And there’s no replacement for actually being on the ground, which is why in January this year we appointed Alistair Crozier to the newly created role of South Island establishment manager.

Alistair has strong ties to both the South Island and Asia, having grown up and attended university in Christchurch and worked extensively in Asia, including establishing and leading New Zealand’s new Consulate-General in Chengdu, China, (2014-18) and serving as New Zealand Deputy Ambassador to Vietnam. He was also New Zealand’s first education counsellor to China and has lived in Japan and Taiwan.

What’s more, Alistair has been a friend of the Foundation for a number of years and supported a range of our activities both here in New Zealand and in Asia.

We had hoped to celebrate the opening of the office earlier in the year, but – like many other events around Aotearoa – had to delay because of COVID-19.

John Luxton chatting with Mayor Lianne Dalziel

We were delighted to be able to proceed with our launch event under alert level 1, and to see so many of our stakeholders, including Christchurch Mayor Hon Lianne Dalziel; Asia diplomatic representatives; Joanna Norris, Chief Executive of ChristchurchNZ; and Minister Andrew Little.

Having a formal presence in the South Island allows us to develop deeper partnerships and identify new ways to grow awareness and understanding of Asia among South Islanders.

As COVID-19 alert levels have allowed, Alistair has been busy raising awareness and visibility of the Foundation and exploring the wide range of existing and potential South Island links with Asia. This has meant getting around the regions to meet with business sectors, educators, art sector representatives, local governments and more. 

His work is important because Asia is becoming increasingly important to the South Island, not just economically but also culturally.

At the time of the last census, over 67,000 Canterbury residents identified with at least one Asian ethnicity (more than twice as many as in 2006), and Asian populations in smaller regional towns are also increasing rapidly.

As I mentioned in a recent article I wrote for Stuff, a good example of the changes occurring in the South Island is the Southland school where Filipinos make up 20 percent of its role due to their families’ involvement in the dairy sector.

As is the case throughout New Zealand, Asia will play a big part in the South Island’s economic recovery from COVID-19. While in Christchurch, I heard how food exports to predominantly Asian markets had resulted in a stronger bounce-back from COVID-19 disruptions.

At its core the Foundation sees itself as serving all of New Zealand. It may have taken 25 years but we are excited to be in Te Waiponamu now on a permanent basis. So it is, for us, quite an important milestone. If you are in the South Island and have Asia interests, please do contact Alistair.

A gathering of people chatting at the opening of the Foundation's Christchurch office

The event brought together key players in the Asia-South Island space

Looking ahead, New Zealand’s current COVID-19 status allows us to begin planning some in-person events, and to support events run by other organisations. They include Diwali festivals in Auckland and Tauranga, and we hope readers in those cities enjoy the flavours, sights and sounds of India without needing to travel far from home.

We’re also looking forward to bringing together our New Zealand Honorary Advisers for a meeting in Auckland next week. These advisers have an impressive range of connections and experiences in Asia. We’re eager to hear their views on New Zealand’s engagement with Asia at this challenging time, and where they see opportunities and challenges.

Of course, we continue to connect with our friends in Asia remotely. One recent example was a Track II (informal diplomacy) dialogue with the  Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Indonesia. This provided a valuable opportunity to hear how Indonesia was navigating some of the geostrategic challenges in the region.

Until next month.

Noho ora mai,

Simon Draper