Ingrid Leary, Director, New Zealand

Ingrid Leary 
Director, British Council New Zealand

New Zealand, although small and on the other side of the world from the UK, is and will continue to be an important voice on the global stage. In the modern context, this multicultural, developed nation is known for asserting its independent view on important geopolitical issues, and taking a proud and staunch position on matters of freedom of expression, human rights, diversity and inclusion, and women’s equality.

New Zealand’s relationship with the UK was forged many decades ago, and the connections remain clearly visible today. We still share many of the same passions – a love of the arts and culture, delight in beating Australians on the sporting field, and an appreciation of comedy in a similar vein. Our people-to-people connections continue to grow with almost 60,000 young New Zealanders residing in the UK. If the same proportion of the UK population was to relocate, there would be a million young Brits living in New Zealand.

We can see new connections growing roots too, particularly around our two nations’ expanding presence in the South Pacific. New Zealand and the UK share the values of open, fair and transparent societies, as well as a mutual interest in a stable Pacific region – a part of the world facing huge disruption from climate change and a shift in Asia-Pacific geopolitics.

New Zealand is home to some of the world’s largest Pacific communities. Our most populous city, Auckland, is also one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities, with 42 per cent of its population born outside New Zealand. Now, one in five New Zealanders – around one million people – have Māori or Pasifika (Pacific Islands) heritage, and this demographic trend is growing. Pasifika is part of our cultural DNA, as a people whose home is surrounded on all sides by the Pacific Ocean.

Migration trends over the last 20 years have brought many new communities to New Zealand who do not share ancestry, or necessarily look to the UK for long-term mutual relationships. In this context, the British Council’s work aims to help people from the UK and New Zealand better understand each other so that we can work together to address global challenges. This has been our role over the past seven decades in New Zealand: creating space for the sharing of knowledge, the exchange of ideas, and the free discussion of issues.

It’s work that continues in this edition of Crossing Points, where we look at the multi-dimensional relationship between New Zealand, the Pacific and the UK, the political and historical ties, and the way relationships of trust have been – and continue to be – shaped between our nations.

Shared values of social equality, diversity, inclusion, transparent governance and environmental sustainability are hugely valuable in a changing world. But they can’t be taken for granted. No country can stand alone: we are only as strong as the relationships we make beyond our borders. At this time it is especially important that we take stock of those relationships and build strong and lasting connections for the future.