Asia New Zealand Foundation Annual Report 2021

The 2020-21 year was the first in the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s history in which it was unable to send New Zealanders to Asia, or to host guests from the region. People-to-people connections and personal experiences are powerful ways to grow knowledge, understanding and confidence about Asia, so border constraints have proven a real challenge to the Foundation’s mandate.

Domestically, COVID-related restrictions also took their toll on a range of events organised and supported by the Foundation, with several cancellations, postponements and adapted activities over the course of 2020-21.

Against that backdrop, I’m proud of the work the Foundation has been able to achieve in its mission to equip New Zealanders to thrive in Asia. The team has adapted its work in a range of ways, including through online connections to Asia; organising and supporting Asia content at a wide range of domestic events across New Zealand; and in growing its voice on topical issues.

Research commissioned by the Foundation in the past year demonstrates that its work continues to be critical, even at a time when the pandemic constrains engagement. We have been encouraged by the results.

The 2020 version of the Foundation’s annual New Zealanders’ Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples survey found that 73 percent of New Zealanders believed that developing political, social and economic ties with Asia was important for New Zealand’s future, up from 67 percent in 2019.

Additionally, we were encouraged to see that New Zealanders were positive about the future impacts of engagement with Asia across a range of measures over the next 10 to 20 years, and that they recognised the value of Asia-related competencies, including understanding of cultural protocols, for New Zealand’s future workforce.

In early 2021, the Foundation commissioned Nielsen to conduct a stakeholder survey to help inform its future direction of effort. Of the 333 respondents, 89 percent said the Foundation did an excellent, very good or good job of equipping New Zealanders to thrive in Asia, consistent with the results of the previous survey in 2019 (86 percent).

COVID-19 has delayed our plans to bring together the Foundation’s Asia Honorary Advisers, but the Foundation trustees were pleased to be able to join with New Zealand Honorary Advisers in October for a strategy session. This year we have been delighted to welcome Labour MP Vanushi Walters as a new Honorary Adviser. We appreciate the ongoing support of our Asia Honorary Advisers.

I would like to acknowledge the work of my fellow trustees Danny Chan, Lyn Lim, Simon Watt, Chris Seed (ex-officio), and outgoing trustees Raf Manji and Simon Murdoch (deputy chairman). Finally, I’d like to make particular mention of chairman Hon John Luxton for his service since 2015. John, who sadly passed away due to ill health in November 2021, oversaw many changes in the Foundation’s work, helping ensure its continued relevance.

I give sincere thanks to my fellow board members, the Foundation’s Honorary Advisers, our staff, and our friends and partners in both Asia and New Zealand for all their support over the past year.

Hon Dame Fran Wilde, DNZM QSO

Board Chair