Participants of the hui, which was held under the Chatham House Rule, noted that out-of-date perceptions of Asia meant opportunities were being missed. It was also noted that perceptions of New Zealand in Asia also needed updating and this could only be done through a concerted effort from our end.
“New Zealand has the entrepreneurial spirit and a culture of innovation, but in Asia we are predominantly know as producers of primary products, and not the technology that allows us to lead the world in these sectors,” says the Foundation’s executive director Simon Draper.
“On the flip side, New Zealand still looks to the West as the pace setters of innovation, while often ignoring the fact that Asia is quickly becoming the global centre for new ideas.”
However, participants warned about the risks of New Zealand “believing its own propaganda” in the innovation and sustainability spaces, noting that we must also walk the talk and invest more in R&D and tackling environmental issues at home.
“It’s not just about perceptions, as we heard in Queenstown, more resources – or at the very least better coordinated efforts – need to be put into R&D, so we can leverage our clean green image but back it up with innovative homegrown solutions to the environmental and sustainability issues New Zealand and the rest of world are facing,” Mr Draper says.
It was recognised by hui participants that to achieve these goals and build New Zealand’s ability and confidence to engage with Asia New Zealand must develop a cohesive and unified plan.
“As we heard in Queenstown, New Zealand needs Asia more than Asia needs us, so if we don’t take a proactive, coordinated approach, progress is likely to slow and we will slip further behind,” Mr Draper says.
The Seriously Asia Revisited Innovation and Sustainable Development hui followed on from hui in Auckland (society and culture), Wellington (politics and security) and Christchurch (trade, tourism and investment).
The four hui canvassed business leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, academics, iwi representatives and government officials to delve into the big issues and opportunities that New Zealand faces in Asia.
Findings from the hui will form the basis of a publication and series of recommendations for New Zealand’s engagement with Asia for the years ahead.