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PM to New Zealand Pan Asian Congress Launch


Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister - ADDRESS TO: Launch of the New Zealand Pan Asian Congress - Mt Albert War Memorial Hall Auckland

It is my pleasure to be present at this launch of the New Zealand Pan Asian Congress.

I want to thank all those people and organisations who have made this important event possible.

The Pan Asian Congress, once formally established, will be an ethnic organisation of tremendous importance.

It will bring together New Zealanders of Asian origin, it will give them a stronger voice in our society, it will advocate on their behalf, and it will ensure that their concerns are heard.

The Pan Asian Congress will promote and foster the interests of Asian New Zealanders.

It will co-operate with other similarly minded organisations, and work with government in the interests of New Zealand’s many Asian communities.

It will not be party political.

It will be able to have input into the formation of policy which affects New Zealand’s ethnic communities.

It will promote understanding between Asian New Zealanders and those from other ethnic groups.

The Congress will be inclusive, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious. Its mission statement includes the broadest possible definition of the word Asian.

One in five New Zealanders were born overseas, and one in three Aucklanders were born overseas.

Almost four hundred thousand Kiwis come from backgrounds other than Maori, Pacific Island, or Anglo-Celtic.

The heritage of many of these people comes from the world’s largest continent – Asia, with its unique languages, cultures, and traditions.

Many are from China, one of the world’s emerging economic giants, or from India, the world’s largest democracy; from Korea, a country which went from total devastation to being one of the world’s strongest economies in a generation; from Indonesia, the world’s most populous Moslem nation; or from one of the other fast-growing, populous nations in East and South-East Asia.

All these communities make a contribution to New Zealand and are welcome here. And some of these communities have a longstanding presence in New Zealand, especially the Chinese, who came with the gold rush.

Our government stands for tolerance and inclusion. I am delighted that representatives of a range of political parties are here today. That indicates that the broad mainstream of political debate will promote and defend the rights of minority groups to lead a decent life in our country.

Asian New Zealanders are contributing to New Zealand in many ways: economically, socially, and culturally.

In turn I hope that New Zealand governments will always be friends and allies of ethnic New Zealanders.

In 1999, the first Minister for Ethnic Affairs, George Hawkins was appointed. The new Minister for Ethnic Affairs, Chris Carter, is here today.

In government we have undertaken a number of initiatives to support ethnic communities of both recent and older origin.

For example, we are establishing telephone interpreting services, to enable non-English speaking New Zealanders to communicate more easily with government departments. And there is a range of settlement projects, particularly aimed at helping new migrants to find work.

We are in the process of reconciling with descendants of early Chinese migrants and in the process have turned a new leaf on relations with that community. An apology was also offered to the people of Samoa which has helped forge closer bonds with the substantial Samoan community in New Zealand.

We are developing the ‘Ethnic Perspectives in Policy’ document which will guide government departments on creating policy which is sensitive to the needs of ethnic New Zealanders.

In encouraging skills-based migration which meets New Zealand’s development needs, we welcome people from around the world based on their ability, not their ethnicity.

Like New Zealand’s Asian communities, the government values education and a strong work ethic highly.

We want our school-leavers and graduates to lead the world in literacy, numeracy, technical, professional, and entrepreneurial skills.

We want to create a knowledge-driven economy and society. That way we will lift the quantity and quality of life in New Zealand.

We want all New Zealanders to enjoy access to opportunity and we want members of ethnic minorities to enjoy economic and social status on a par with that of other New Zealanders.

The nations of East Asia are especially important to New Zealand. We are linked by geography, through trade, and through regional organisations like APEC.

We know China will become a prosperous nation and an even bigger market for our goods. Japan, Korea, and the nations of ASEAN are all important to us. We have old links with the nations of the Indian subcontinent through the Commonwealth.

For New Zealand, the presence of significant communities from Asia to our country can be counted as a great strength and resource in our future relations with Asian nations.

To the future members of the New Zealand Pan Asian Congress – please accept my best wishes for the success of your organisation.

You have assumed the significant responsibility of speaking up on behalf of New Zealand’s growing Asian communities.

There will be many challenges in the work of the Pan Asian Congress, but I believe it will be an important voice for the many communities you represent.

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