New Zealand must walk the talk on sustainability and innovation - Queenstown hui


In the last of its four Seriously Asia hui, the Foundation brought together Asia-savvy business leaders and industry experts in Queenstown to discuss how New Zealand can make the most of its connections with Asia in the areas of innovation and sustainable development.
A photo of a man taking a photo of a woman speaking

Suggested actions that came from the hui included putting the environmental and sustainability at the forefront of business transactions with Asia

Participants of the hui, which was held under the Chatham House Rule, noted that out-of-date perceptions of Asia meant opportunities were being missed.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.”

Ganesh Nana listening to a speaker at the Seriously Asia Revisited hui in Queenstown

Economist and Chair of the Productivity Commission Te Kōmihana Whai Hua o Aotearoa Ganesh Nana

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.