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New Zealand's richest man supports the arts

New Zealand's richest man, Douglas Myers, has made a $1.5 million donation to Auckland University's new arts centre to help stop the brain drain. But are we also neglecting the "retired brains" in our society. John Howard reports.

The new university arts centre, to be named The Kenneth Myers Centre in memory of Mr Myer's father, will be housed in the former TVNZ studios in Shortland St and will be home to a new School of Creative and Performing Arts.

Mr Myers said, "This is about stopping the brain drain. We can encourage people to go overseas but make New Zealand attractive enough to make them come back."

"More importantly, it's an environment where people are looked up to, in the performing arts or whatever," Mr Myers said.

He said money and taxes were only part of the attraction for people wanting to leave New Zealand.

Mr Myers is right and that's the crunch. He has put his money where his mouth is, but he is also on the record expressing his concerns about the way New Zealander's seem to have a national habit of pulling down the successful. In other words, we love winners but when they do win, for some unexplicable reason we seem to think they don't deserve it.

I was recently at a social gathering including people such as a former accountant, a computer systems engineer, a Mayor, a lawyer, two performing artists, and eleven successful businesspeople.

Trouble is, they were all over 60 and, despite having years of wisdom and experience, they all complained that society didn't want to know them or was not really interested in them.

The computer engineer lamented that her 15 year-old grandson often said "get real, what do you know granny."

The fact that she had earlier lived in the US and was one of the original writers of computer programmes that her grandson was now using to help play his computer games, didn't seem to sink in with the grandson.

The point is, in New Zealand society today we have thousands of people who are not senile old geriatrics, who have years of experience and wisdom and would love the opportunity to be involved and needed, perhaps as mentors. But they are also leaving the country.

Lianne Dalziel is the new Minister for Senior Citizens and if she's wise she'll try and stop this older brain drain to Queensland's Gold Coast and other parts of Australia.

Douglas Myers is right - it's not just about money and taxes - it's about being wanted, needed, respected and looked up to in the society in which you live.

When I was young and my grandmother was angry with me she used to say, "I've been through the mill sonny, you've got to go, take an old women's advice."

Even Mr Myers recognises the truth of this by naming the new arts centre in honour of his father's memory. But is anybody listening?

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