Letter from Aotearoa New Zealand

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Kia Ora and warm greetings from the South Pacific.

Welcome to Aotearoa New Zealand. Let us introduce you to our country, the land of the long white cloud, the land of milk and honey and the quarter acre section, land of the Māori people, the anchor of the Polynesian triangle in the South Pacific and part of the Pacific rim’s ring of fire.

Ours is a modern and relatively isolated country; approximately 3 hours 15 mins flying time from Australia, 10 hours 40 mins from Singapore, 11 hours 36 mins from Hong Kong, 12 hours from Los Angeles and 28 hours from London.

New Zealand is a land of great natural beauty with a land area similar to the UK but with a population of almost 4.5 million people.  Our people, from all cultures, share a common pioneering spirit that brought our forebears to this young land with the desire to build a new way of life and a brighter future for their children. This process continues today with newcomers to our airports and shores.

We are uniquely placed in the world. Ours is a bi-cultural country based around the Treaty of Waitangi signed by the British Crown with the Māori, New Zealand’s tāngata whenua, the people of the land, or indigenous people, in 1840.  And we have a growing culturally diverse population from all parts of the globe.

Ours is a strongly egalitarian society that values independence, self-reliance, hard work, resourcefulness, a “can do” attitude and individualism.  We pride ourselves on ‘Kiwi’ ingenuity and an ability to ‘punch above our weight,’ especially in the sports arena.

This is derived from our distance from the rest of the world and relatively low population which has forced us to become more resourceful and multi-skilled. Our low population density, temperate climate, spectacular scenery and topography give us a relaxed outdoor lifestyle with easy access to beaches, rivers, mountains and the bush.

In small societies, you make your own fun. We have high participation rates in many sports and a wide range of outdoor recreation activities including hiking, mountaineering, skiing, boating, fishing, diving and kayaking, rowing, equestrian, golf, cricket, football, rugby, tennis and netball, to name a few.

Our egalitarianism is reflected in New Zealand’s relatively flat social structure and low power-distance relationship with our social, political and business leaders.  We have a reputation for being friendly and have an ability to form relationships with a wide cross-section of people when living and working in other countries.

Recently, as a family, we hosted visitors from a French cooking school with which we had helped to establish a sister-school relationship with a NZ cooking school. We invited the group around for our usual relaxed Friday night meal with other friends, i.e. Chinese takeaways, Fish and Chips and a bottle of wine or two.  It was a Kiwi family experience for them. Our French friend who was part of the group later shared with us how much they had enjoyed the evening as it was not usual for the CEO and his staff to socialise together like this in someone’s home, whereas in New Zealand it is reasonably common.

It is experiences like this that the ‘New Zealand 2011’ organisers are aiming to facilitate around the country as part of building business connections for visitors coming to New Zealand to enjoy the Rugby World Cup in September.

As a people, we believe New Zealanders are generally confident, tolerant, welcoming and friendly. These traits may also be contributing factors to the number of our countrymen and women in leadership and management positions in businesses and organisations around the globe.

We are a well-educated society with world-class expertise in a wide variety of fields including the sciences, agriculture and horticulture (our main export earners), the performing arts and creative industries – computer software builders, film-makers (Lord of the Rings), opera (Dame Kiri Te Kanawa), yachting (America’s Cup) and fashion design.

We are generally flexible and adaptable and like to get things done. We have a strong work ethic.

As a relatively new nation, our country has always been a mixing pot of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and religions. Early settlers came from European countries and in particular, Great Britain, Ireland as well as Germany and Dalmatia then following World War II, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Poland, the former Yugoslavia and other European countries.

However our cultural make-up is changing. In recent years there has been increased migration from Asia, the Pacific region, parts of Africa, South Africa and the UK. This is partly a reflection of an increasingly mobile international workforce, assisted migration and humanitarian considerations. Intercultural marriage is common and is adding a new dimension to our evolving cultural identity.

This is evident in population statistics.  The official government 2011 census was cancelled as a consequence of the disastrous earthquake which hit Christchurch on 22 February 2011; however there is interesting data from the 2006 national census which show that the largest ethnic group is European, comprising some 67.6% of the population, Māori 14.6%, Asian 9.2% and Pacific 6.5%.  The five largest European groups were New Zealand European, English, Dutch, British and Australian. Within the Asian communities, the main groups are Chinese, Indian, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Sri Lankan and Cambodian. As for Pacific communities, the main island groups are Samoan, Cook Islands Māori, Tongan, Niuean, Fijian, Tokelauan and Tuvaluan. Middle Eastern, Latin and American and African groups make up just under 1% of the population.

Cultural and ethnic identity for census purposes is self-identified. Most of us tend to identify ourselves as New Zealanders and by our cultural heritage.  For example as a New Zealand-born Niuean and a New Zealander with Irish-Scottish ancestry.

By 2021, current population projections suggest that Māori will comprise 17% of our population, Pacific 9%, 18% Asian and other cultures with the remainder made up of the many European cultures.

Part of the exciting challenge that we face as a country is how we tap into the richness and talent that our increasingly culturally diverse population offers and how we welcome newcomers to our shores. This is a relatively new and growing conversation in New Zealand. We have a unique opportunity as a country to incorporate managing cultural diversity as a conscious strategy and as an integral part of New Zealand society and New Zealand business management practices.


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