Why Asia must be invited when New Zealand reopens – Stuff.co.nz

Posted: November 7, 2021 at 12:13 pm

OPINION: In talking with Asian New Zealanders over the past 18 months, one of the fears expressed is that when borders start to reopen, an unconscious bias may mean Asian countries are some of the last New Zealanders are able to travel to.

Here at the Asia New Zealand Foundation, weve recently undertaken an exercise to see where we could travel in Asia. And it is a very complex jigsaw puzzle with few matching pieces.

Amid border controls, Covid apps, vaccination passports, airline requirements, transit conditions, testing regimes, quarantine and isolation requirements, it is simply too hard to get to Asia right now. (Pro tip: the APEC travel card looks like the most useful document to have at present.)

While some green lanes are opening up, theyre subject to bilateral agreements that New Zealand isnt yet part of.

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Some of us will have experienced travelling with yellow fever vaccination books in the past, but amid a climate of distrust, the WHO and other multilateral institutions face challenges in establishing international standards for Covid vaccination certificates.

IATA the International Air Transport Association is working on a system, with its travel pass still being trialled (including by Air New Zealand).

Its clear governments and airlines have work to do. Im sure progress is being made, but it is hard to see normal business travel to Asia happening anytime soon. Thats a problem, obviously, for New Zealand when you consider that most of our top 10 trading partners are in Asia.

And its even harder to see when young New Zealanders will be able to venture out into the world on their OEs again.

As I was grappling with the practicalities of getting a staff member to Asia, my sister sent me an old photo of me wandering down a Hong Kong alley as a nave, unencumbered and curious 21-year-old on my OE. It reminded me of the value of these experiences for young New Zealanders.

The OE is one of those great New Zealand traditions that has been, in my view, such a key part of New Zealands cultural trajectory for much of the last 100 years.

The opportunity to get out and see the world is one of the most rewarding and valuable experiences and helps build bridges between countries. Young New Zealanders have been lucky enough to benefit from an array of working holiday opportunities overseas, enabling them to be immersed in new cultures.


Simon Draper is the executive director of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whtau Thono.

We all know that travel broadens ones perspectives on the world and can foster independence and self-reliance. Working holidays add something more they provide tangible skills that employers are looking for. They benefit not only the individual but New Zealand as a whole.

As executive director at the Asia New Zealand Foundation, perhaps my inclination to guide young graduates in the direction of Asia will seem an obvious one. But biases aside, there are few more marketable soft skills in todays work environment than an understanding of Asia and Asian cultures.

New Zealand has 10 reciprocal working holiday agreements in place with Asia, including Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and Thailand, and other visa categories have also enabled our young people to live, work and study in the region.

In my last column, I wrote about how research the Asia New Zealand Foundation conducted recently showed how important personal connections are to the success of business relationships between New Zealand and Asia. It found that lack of language skills and market knowledge were the biggest challenges facing businesses looking to enter the region bigger than regulatory barriers.

To grow these critical Asia capabilities, each year the Foundation supports young graduates to undertake business internships in Asia. While this years cohort will be undertaking their paid internships online, we are looking forward to the day when our interns can once again experience life in Asian countries.

From conversations we have on their return, its clear these are transformational experiences that provide them with incredible insights, skills and knowledge.

Most New Zealanders will be familiar with the JET programme, which annually supports some 250 Kiwis to work in Japan, mostly as English teachers. Over the last 18 months, when the world has been largely cut off to New Zealanders, the Japanese-government-run programme has continued to operate and has been one of the few avenues, unless you are an Olympian, through which New Zealanders have been able to travel to Japan.

Teaching is, of course, just one, if perhaps the most popular, job young Kiwis turn their hands to in Asia. Increasingly, there have been opportunities to work in any number of fields and sectors.

While the advice of one generation to the next has a habit of falling on deaf ears, travel is not something that young Kiwis need too much encouragement to embrace. Its in our genes. Which brings us back to the challenge at hand, namely Covid.

At some point New Zealand will reopen to the world. We will again start inviting overseas visitors to these shores and start venturing out ourselves. Asia has to be part of the mix New Zealand will be all the poorer if it isnt.

Simon Draper is the executive director of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whtau Thono

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Why Asia must be invited when New Zealand reopens - Stuff.co.nz

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