Peters: The Many Faces Of New Zealand Inc
An address by Rt Hon Winston Peters to Strategy Group's CEO Symposium on commercial enterprise at the Carlton Hotel, Auckland on Thursday 15 June 2006 at 9am
The Many Faces Of New Zealand Inc
Let us be clear from the outset that these musings today are those of the Leader of New Zealand First who also happens to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
This is not government policy, but my thoughts as a party leader aiming to contribute to a wider debate on the issues.
In the recent past it has been great to be a New Zealander on the international stage and we should be optimistic about our future.
This optimism is based on several landmark developments which have seen New Zealanders leave their indelible impression on the global community in a most distinctive and uniquely New Zealand way.
Our successes are not shrouded in apologetic disclaimers of being part of the British Empire or the poor cousins to Australia, but as proud New Zealanders succeeding on our own terms.
This is an exciting development in our evolution as a nation.
Past clouds of inferiority, which once seemed to limit our horizons have been shed, replaced by a confidence that our deeds, in whatever field of endeavour they may occur, belong on the world stage.
National identity is one of those concepts which is hard to define.
While it is often about perception and sweeping generalisations according to those who view us from outside, there is also an introspective element through which we view ourselves.
And from these perspectives we are increasingly crystallising a New Zealand identity that is both instantly recognisable and infuses a sense of pride.
From Michael Campbell winning the US Golf Open wearing a distinctive Maori motif on his shirt, through to Peter Jackson, Andrew Adamson or Nicky Caro making a huge splash in Hollywood, high achieving New Zealanders in diverse fields are leaving a distinctly New Zealand imprint on what they do.
They have become the lens through which the world views us.
And this is an important development.
It is significant for two absolutely critical reasons.
The first is the fact that innovative and creative people are able to succeed right here in New Zealand, using New Zealand based skills and our wonderful landscape as the backdrop to their work.
While highlighting three prominent movie directors, the point must be made that such New Zealand based success can be seen across all of the arts – from the music industry through to our literature – where our offerings to the world are infused with a 'kiwiness' which the world simply can't get enough of.
This sends a clear signal to the next generation of New Zealand innovators and creative talent that they can succeed on the world stage from New Zealand.
Where once upon a time such people had little choice but to head offshore if they wanted to be successful – today New Zealand is a viable place to do creative business.
The second, and perhaps most important aspect of this development, is the reality that these success stories have done things their way, they have not felt compelled to imitate others.
Our creative talent no longer feels that success can only come through replicating the work of those from more established or larger stages, but they have the self-confidence to be themselves and strive for success as New Zealanders.
Since colonisation and even before, those who have lived on these islands have been innovative, creative and resourceful.
In many ways it was a prerequisite to success and even survival.
Some have colloquially called it the number eight-wire mentality.
It is more than that – it is a recognition that no one else is going to do things for us and we must get on and do them ourselves.
This point is important.
You see we went through something of a revolution since the mid 1980s.
Our political, cultural, social and economic landscapes where irreversibly changed.
And while we could debate ad nauseam the rights or wrongs of these changes, the speed with which they occurred and how they were implemented, the simple reality remains that they did happen and we must now deal with the consequences.
One indisputable aspect of this revolution was that the globe was brought to our door-step and invited in.
We were exposed to the global community like never before.
And this was not just economically – it was across every facet of our society.
It took some time for us to find our feet.
For some there was great pain.
It forced us to look inward and decide who we were and how we would cope.
And now we are beginning to see that defining New Zealand attribute – of getting on and doing it because no one else will.
We have asked ourselves what is important and what is worth preserving about our culture and way of life.
Many of those questions are still being answered.
But what is clear is that part of the answer is now manifesting itself in the ways outlined earlier.
It is sports people from various heritages, with blended cultural expressions which are totally unique to New Zealand.
It is our arts community expressing themselves using an exotic mix of influences which a coalesced here in New Zealand.
But it has become more than this.
We have great innovators in business – able to embrace new technology, engage in the global community and be successful on their own terms.
We have scientists leading the world in their particular fields.
It is our diasporas spread across the globe, from the lofty towers at Oxford where a New Zealander has become the first outsider to take the reins of that institution through to New Zealanders heading the Commonwealth Secretariat and before that the WTO.
These successes must give us confidence and optimism into the future.
We are now able to front up to the world on our own two feet – the apron strings have been cut, the introspection is over and a new dawn of a self confident independent nation is unfolding around us.
But there are three concerns that we must continue to discuss as part of this national evolution.
The first is that while we evolve we must always democratize the process whereever possible.
The people must come with us on this journey – it is after all theirs.
But that does not mean we cannot debate the big issues – the Treaty, immigration, the economy among others.
Quite the contrary – these major debates, and they must be debates, are central to our development.
But they must be broad based, informed debates, not restricted to elites and academics, but wide ranging.
The second is that we must continue to encourage and foster individual expressions of brilliance – in whatever field they may be – in New Zealanders.
And this extends beyond the arts and sports fields where it is currently most prominent and into our scientific communities and our business activities.
Conformity has its place and social order must be maintained – but the confidence to explore new horizons must be encouraged.
It is part of the genius that has historically allowed New Zealanders to succeed on the global stage.
A third concern is that while we embrace the excitement of promoting New Zealand Inc to the world in its many and varied forms, we do not neglect or penalise the average New Zealander – they must share in these successes.
One of the great things about a Peter Jackson movie is that the average New Zealander can pay $12 and feel part of the whole experience.
But we must do better than this.
It is about greater profits for business and higher wages for the average worker and their families.
It is about ensuring they have the prospect to reach their full employment and personal potential and this means better education and career development opportunities.
It is about being able to put their stake in the ground – to afford a home for their families.
It is about access to and participation in the kiwi way of life.
Despite these concerns, there are many reasons to be optimistic for our future.
Too many of our politicians focus on the negatives and ignore the blatantly obvious – things may not be perfect, but there is much to be positive about.
New Zealanders are succeeding on the international stage – that pathway has been blazed for all of us.
The key now is to embrace the many faces of New Zealand Inc and to join the bandwagon.
So what do these faces of New Zealand Inc look like?
Well they could be tanned or fair.
They could have brown eyes, blues eyes or Green.
The could be male or female.
In fact – the only thing they really share in common is the fact that they are confident.
And why are they confident?
Because they are successful, because they are proud of who they are and most importantly because they have succeeded on their own terms.