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New Forum to foster Asian Chief Executives

While the importance of the contributions of businesses and professionals of Asian origin to the New Zealand economy is yet to receive adequate recognition and reward, a new organisation has taken up the challenge of bringing them together to promote their interests and presence.

‘New Zealand Asian Leaders,’ launched in Auckland on November 4, 2013, is an initiative of Mai Chen, Managing Partner, Chen Palmers (Public & Employment Law Specialists) to enable Asian New Zealanders who are chief executives and those who aspire to become chief executives to be more effective in their performance and interaction with the rest of New Zealand.

“Our vision is to maximise the country’s successful business interface with Asia. It will allow these Asian New Zealand chief executives to lead debates where they have expertise due to their business and cultural experience. NZAL will connect Asian talent with New Zealand companies doing business in Asia and help discover business opportunities in Asia that only Asian leaders know about,” she said, speaking at the launch ceremony held at Ernst & Young offices in the Auckland Central Business District.

Asians for boards

Justice Minister Judith Collins said that Asian businesses were not adequately represented in government organisations and agencies.

“I would like to see more businesses and professionals of Asian origin to be appointed to the boards of government bodies and state-owned enterprises. All of us are aware of the significant contributions being made by people of Asian origin to the economic progress of New Zealand,” she said.

Ms Collins said that members of the Asian community are known for their hard work and rich cultural and social heritage.

“I am happy to launch NZAL, which would hopefully help emerging Asian leaders to acquire appropriate leadership skills,” she said.

Migrants’ success

Former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand said that there was no bar for people of different background to be appointed to statutory and civic roles involving duties affecting the broad range of the New Zealand population.

“That stands alongside me having parents who were migrants to New Zealand – a father who came to New Zealand on a Fiji Government scholarship in 1927 and who went on a programme aimed at students from the Pacific Islands to complete a medical degree at the University of Otago. He worked at the Auckland Hospital at the time of the beginning of World War II and continued in war time in a job that became manpowered – or compulsory. My mother also migrated here initially to train as a Karitane nurse,” he said.

Major developments

Outlining some of the major developments that occurred over the past 100 years, he said that the New Zealand Parliament enacted the first ever Public Service Act in 1912, creating overarching professional civil service for the country.

“It came into force on 1 April 1913. Many of the advances for which our country is internationally respected – a strong independent public sector, with an ability to adapt; a system of government that has from time factored in mechanisms of accountability, for example ombudsman legislation, New Zealand being the first English speaking country to do this and freedom of information legislation, all these have occurred in the span of a century,” he said.

Speaking about the growth of migrant population, Sir Anand said that the number of non-European settings in 1913 was small.

“There was certainly no website run by a government agency, as there is today, saying things like ‘Work, Live, Study or Invest in New Zealand’ or ‘Job Prospects in your Profession and How to Find Work’ or ‘Get Ready for New Zealand, your personal planning tool to help you move and settle in New Zealand.’ In 1913, the picture for intending migrants was much different. This was the time of the Immigration Restriction Act 1908,” he said.

Restricted nationals

Quoting a provision of the Act, Sir Anand said that “any prohibited immigrant or Chinese arriving at a New Zealand port en route to some place beyond New Zealand may be permitted to land for a period not exceeding 21 days: provided that a bond with security satisfactory to the Collector of Custom is given that the person named therein shall report himself to the Collector upon departure from New Zealand within the time specified.”

The bond amount was £200 in the case of Chinese and £100 in the case of all other prohibited persons, he said.

Modern day New Zealand was a sharp contrast, he said, citing the celebration of Chinese New Year and Diwali.

Success stories

“Think for a moment of the success stories of business and professional people, who we know and whose proprietors or parents may have been born outside of New Zealand in some part of Asia. The significance of NZAL is that of another step, due to the determination and entrepreneurship of Ms Chen and her colleagues to set up a linkage or network support group of business leaders of Asian origin. Its arrival is a new and significant milestone,” he said.

More than 200 people including politicians, top executives of public and private enterprises and professionals across a stream of disciplines attended the launch.

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