Cover Story: Kea’s world-class Kiwis

Sir Stephen Tindall’s initial impulse to create global network to connect expatriate New Zealanders – and harness the potential of their experience and contacts to further the success of this country – has been realised by the size and quality of Kea New Zealand’s membership today.
As one of New Zealand’s most recognisable business leaders, Sir Stephen has utilised his own skills and contacts to move into spheres beyond the operation of one of our largest retail chains. He is now deeply committed to philanthropy through the Tindall Foundation, and to advancing the visibility and impact of New Zealand globally through Kea.
Dr Sue Watson, recently-appointed global CEO of Kea New Zealand, says the network aims to create wealth of knowledge and contacts that will ultimately increase New Zealand exports, and create more robust economy.
“Over the past 10 years, Kea has built strong network of 30,000 Kiwi expats and friends of New Zealand in 180 countries around the world,” she says. “Our key focus now is to realise the full potential of this network to help grow New Zealand’s economy, particularly through the export SME sector.
“One of the ways we will do this is to extend our service offerings to inspire, fund, connect and educate New Zealand businesses through our network of highly-skilled, highly-experienced and well-connected expats.”
Watson acknowledges that the Christchurch earthquake has fundamentally reshaped the context in which we are now all operating.
“The effect it has had on New Zealanders throughout the country is evident,” she says, “but for Kiwi expats, being away from home at time like this only magnifies the feeling of helplessness and concern.
“The way in which we have seen expats take action and mobilise themselves to fundraise and support Christchurch has powerfully demonstrated the value of the Kiwi diaspora. It has also shown me that they want to stay connected to New Zealand and they want to help.”
Watson says she feels fortunate to have come to Kea at time when the previous CEO and global board had been through an internal review and developed global strategy designed to take the organisation into the next 10 years of its development.
“This year we have number of initiatives planned to further mobilise our network. In the coming months, we will run census of our offshore population to gauge the level of engagement they wish to have with New Zealand. This will help us as nation make strategic decisions about the diaspora as valuable national asset.”
The World Class New Zealand programme, created by Kea in partnership with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, is one of the longstanding initiatives. Established in 2001, it aims to advance innovation and boost the competitiveness of the country by bringing together the many ‘world-class’ New Zealanders – and friends of New Zealand – around the world.
The World Class New Zealand Awards is core part of this programme: recognising the contribution of Kiwis overseas to the success of New Zealand, and honouring the best and brightest of those who make up the Kiwi diaspora.
This year’s winners, celebrated at black-tie event at the Langham, Auckland on April 6, are true reflection of the quality and diversity of New Zealanders engaged in many different endeavours. They have many things in common. All world-class figures in their various fields, they are passionate about this country and want to do all they can to leverage their unique experiences to help New Zealand grow and prosper. When NZ Management spoke with them, several referred to themselves as ‘ambassadors’, and said how honoured they were to be in position to increase the financial and social wellbeing of this country. Their stories follow.

The power of global connections
Kea New Zealand has just turned 10 – and there is much to celebrate. Our 30,000 expats now connect back to, and engage with, New Zealand from across the globe. In the past decade there have been numerous examples of New Zealanders based offshore supporting Kiwi businesses.
The power of the network is illustrated by the story of two Dunedin doctors who realised that there were not resources to explain medical conditions to young patients, so they created series of comic books called Medikidz.
The doctors approached Kea to find investors and quickly raised nearly £2 million despite the global recession. The network also provided wealth of business contacts around the globe.
And when the filming of The Hobbit looked to be in jeopardy it was comforting sight to see New York-based New Zealander, and World Class New Zealand award winner, Mark D’Arcy was one of the movie executives who negotiated the deal to keep the movies in New Zealand.
The idea behind the network came from conversation I had with Professor David Teece at the Knowledge Wave Conference in Auckland. David is based at the University of California, Berkeley and has spent more than 30 years in the United States.
It seemed to us that there was huge amount of New Zealand human capital residing in different parts of the world who didn’t feel as engaged as they could in helping New Zealand grow and prosper.
New Zealand leads the world in the number of highly-skilled expats per capita who have travelled and live in different countries because of our wonderful education system and the lack of business opportunities at scale here.
The good news is that when we surveyed our members we found that well over half of them intend to return to New Zealand.
Eight years ago the government decided to acknowledge World Class New Zealanders. The first few events were modest affairs but since Kea was asked to handle this programme the gala awards ceremony has become significant event on the New Zealand business calendar. The network of World Class New Zealanders has grown to just under 200 people who are contributing in meaningful way to the country’s prosperity.
Award recipients Professor Alan MacDiarmid, Dr Richard Mander, Andrew Lark, Dr John Hood, Peri Drysdale, Richard Taylor and Professor Richard Faull are all true leaders in their fields globally.
In the next 10 years Kea and the World Class New Zealand network aims to make measurable difference in taking export companies global.
We recognise our country depends heavily on creating scale businesses that will produce surplus of income over expenditure. Already we are seeing evidence of smart New Zealand technology companies showing signs of potential scale, but it is imperative that we use every means available to grow New Zealand goods and services businesses in foreign countries.
Asia has the biggest potential of all. It is an exploding market and with more than 200,000 New Zealand-educated Chinese alone, the opportunity to form deep and substantial relationships with people who have lived in and loved New Zealand is enormous. M

Sir Stephen Tindall is chairman of Kea.


Sponsored by Air New Zealand
It is astonishing that Dr Howard Harper is not one of New Zealand’s best known figures. But that speaks to the humility and quiet reserve of man who has dedicated his life to improving and restoring sight to tens of thousands of people in Central Asia and the former states of the USSR.
For the past 60 years Harper has realised the dream he had as 15-year-old at Auckland Grammar School. “[I wanted to] find the neediest people who weren’t being helped,” he says.
He found the subjects of that search while on motorbike tour through Pakistan in 1953 when, with the little medical training that he had at the time, he was able to alleviate the suffering of people who had leprosy and who were also afflicted with various eye ailments.
“What I found at that point was way into Central Asia, in which I could do something people wanted and something I could do myself. I chose going into surgery,” Harper says.
He went to England to study medicine and ophthalmology and r

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