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Innovation part of New Zealand's tradition

Innovation part of New Zealand's tradition

Innovation ? as demonstrated in aviation by Richard Pearse ? is a New Zealand tradition, Aoraki MP Jim Sutton said today.

Richard Pearse may have beaten the Wright Brothers to be the first person in the world to fly a plane. There have been several dates suggested, but consensus has settled on March 31, 1903, as his first witnessed flight.

Mr Sutton said that the 100th anniversary of Richard Pearse's first flight next month was a significant milestone. It was one the whole country should mark, not just the people of South Canterbury, he said.

"It has particular resonance for rural people. Richard Pearse did his work in Waitohi, and it shows that some of the really significant innovation in this country comes from the heartland, not just from our cities."

Mr Sutton said he welcomed the work done by Pearse relatives and many others to celebrate the centenary next month. A concert, play, airshow, and replica flights will be held over the weekend of March 29 and 30, culminating in an airshow at the Waitohi site where Richard Pearse made his flights.

"There is some controversy about whether Richard Pearse did actually achieve controlled flight before the Wright Brothers.

"Personally, I think the important point is that a New Zealander was at the forefront of aviation history, in parallel development with the American Wright Brothers. In many ways, his aircraft were far more sophisticated than those of the Wright Brothers.

"Throughout our short history, New Zealanders have been innovators, developing and adapting new technology, and improving our living standards. 100 years ago, Richard Pearse demonstrated that. I think he is still a good role model for us today."

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