Speech: Diverse Bananas, Global Dragons conference
Ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings and good evening to you all.
It’s a great pleasure to be here this evening to open the 2014 edition of the Diverse Bananas, Global Dragons Conference.
In New Zealand we value the contribution of every person that has made this country their home. I’d like to say that as people put their faith, trust and commitment in New Zealand, so must we to all who choose to make New Zealand their home.
People of Chinese origin are increasingly choosing New Zealand as a place they want to settle down and make a real contribution. And we are truly lucky to have such a diverse range of talented and experienced fellow New Zealanders.
For over 130 years Chinese New Zealanders have been industry pioneers and agricultural leaders. I know that many of you here this evening are in fact descendants of these very early pioneers, whether it’s the dairy industry, gold and all sorts of other areas. Our economy is stronger with new businesses and innovation and this helps boost our entrepreneurial spirit.
While we often celebrate the heritage, traditions and historic contributions of Chinese New Zealanders, it’s great to see an event dedicated to celebrating the here and now contribution of New Zealanders - like everyone in this room tonight.
New Zealand has a fantastic and well deserved international reputation for its equal opportunities and harmonious relations. This Government has been unwavering in our dedication to supporting and encouraging New Zealanders to succeed no matter where they were born or what they think their prospects are.
Unfortunately there are always going to be some people who don’t like ‘tall poppies’ and think we should stop certain groups of people taking initiative and being successful.
Sadly some recent political statements have taken aim at Chinese migrants to New Zealand. Don’t pay any attention to these ill-informed comments. It is my deep hope that in about three months’ time, those people will know how truly wrong they were.
Please remember that the vast majority of New Zealanders love our diversity and love being part of such a wonderful country. Do not ever let the small minority get you down.
All New Zealanders should be proud of our diversity as a country. We have more than 200 different ethnicities in New Zealand and of those, our Chinese population is one of the fastest growing. That is something we should celebrate.
The reality is that New Zealand is a place where everyone has the opportunity to get ahead and be successful. It’s up to each person to make the most of it.
The Government is committed to building the economy, and ensuring that New Zealand remains a great place to live. An essential element to laying these foundations is our improving relationships across South East Asia and North Asia.
We began this process by signing the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement in 2008, and the Hong Kong, China Closer Economic Partnership Agreement in 2010. While such agreements initiate closer economic ties, by themselves they are not enough.
All New Zealanders – academics, businesses and individuals – have an important role to play.
Social and professional connections can lead to greater trade opportunities between New Zealand and other countries that are half a world away.
I grew up in a New Zealand where our largest trading partner was the United Kingdom. Now things have changed and we are very grateful to also be trading well in this part of the world.
Connections that help everyone get ahead has been our focus with the Office of Ethnic Affairs – to build solid and long-lasting relationships where the benefits of international experience and also domestic experience can be shared.
In this way, events like this Diverse Bananas, Global Dragons Conference play an important role, particularly being led by active members of the community.
These conferences create the opportunity to appreciate, learn about and maximise the great business acumen and strong drive for success within our many communities.
Over the next two days, you’ll have the privilege of hearing from a range of luminaries from New Zealand’s Chinese community – people who have found success in a variety of sectors, including business, law and academia.
I hope you all enjoy the conference ahead and take the opportunity to build further connections and inspire your fellow New Zealanders on your journey.
Thank you for contributing to the foundations of New Zealand’s on-going prosperity.
Thank you and good evening.