The following post from Sharronn Harris, of Matua, is taken from her presentation to the local Toastmasters group, of which she is a member. Toastmasters Tauranga meets on Thursday mornings at 7am at Alimento Cafe, 2nd Avenue, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
What’s happening in my city – Tauranga Moana?
Having had opportunity to spend some real time in Tauranga in the last few months, I’ve found I have fresh eyes on a well-known place.
There are many things happening in our city and I decided it’s time to take a look and attend, or explore, some of the events happening here.
This exploration has had mixed results. I have found myself entertained, amongst hundreds of bantering women, at a fashion fundraiser. At a business womens network event, I found some inspiration and connection with ladies evaluating (critiquing?) some well-respected visiting speakers.
I also attended a presentation at our Toi Toi Tauranga Art Gallery last month which challenged me to think about the future, my own, Tauranga’s and New Zealand’s.
"Get off the Grass - Kickstarting our Innovation Economy” was a free event which bought Professor Shaun Hendy to Tauranga to deliver, in person, the results of his research.
Over 100 people attended which seemed a reasonable crowd for a Friday evening and a serious, academic-sounding subject matter.
The fact the event promoted its aim as an opportunity to get an answer to the conundrum "Why do New Zealanders work harder, yet earn less”, was undoubtedly a draw card.
Professor Shaun Hendy has many titles after his name and in 2012 was the winner of the Prime Ministers Science Media Communication Prize. I’d previously not known of the existence of this prize, but will watch out for future winners.
The Professor certainly captured my attention early on in the evening with the statement: “New Zealanders work harder and earn less than most other people in the developed world.”
It was a statement that bore repeating, and I will repeat it here too! “NZ'ers work harder and earn less than most other people in the developed world.”
The evenings presentation was based on the book Get Off The Grass, in which Hendy and Sir Paul Callaghan advocate building nationwide communities of innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses to allow New Zealand to grow its economy more rapidly.
Both the book and the presentation were based on research which shows while New Zealand was comparable with Scandinavian countries (such as Denmark and Finland) in the 70’s it has lost parity over ensuing years. By continuing to foster priorities around primary industries – milk being our biggest earner our country is at risk from a critical issue – decades in which New Zealand has underinvested in both public and private sector technological research and innovation.
Take aways I noted down from the event were;
- We need to start capitalising on our smarts, not just our sheep
- We need to start harnessing communications technology, science and innovation
- We need to figure out how to export knowledge
- How connectivity and collaboration play a key role in determining rates of innovation and economic growth
- If New Zealand is to grow its economy more rapidly, it must overcome its small size and low population density to build a nationwide community of innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses.
Most important to me were the messages aimed at catching New Zealand up with the countries that lure our young people away:
- we need to learn to operate and innovate as if we were a city of four million people
- we need to start taking technology and science seriously
- we need to start seeing ourselves as people of learning, not just of the land
- we need to put our money where our mouths are and learn to live off knowledge, rather than nature.
This lecture left me believing that New Zealand needs us all – everyone single one of us – to contribute if we are going to secure a prosperous future. Also, potentially, retirement will go out the window if we can find a way to collaborate in a way that uses the wisdom and knowledge of our ageing population too.
It seems we need to work with what we have, develop and then export the smarts – the very same stuff that this nation was founded on.
What made the evenings presentation more poignant was the launch of “Venture Centre”. A local initiative which has an aim of being a place online for “people finding people, and idea’s finding ideas”.
The team behind the initiative are committed to the kind of collaboration and investment that Professor Hendy suggests. They believe passionate, talented people who love what they do, create great families, jobs, companies and solutions to the world’s problems and can increase our city's, in fact our countries, prosperity, together.
Professor Hendy is an active participant in this critical national debate on how we are to become a more wealthy and healthy country and made a welcome and timely contribution on a local level here in Tauranga. The people who have launched Venture Centre are applying Hendy’s research for our ongoing benefit.
My fresh eyes see many new opportunities opening up for young and old(er) here in Tauranga. It’s an exciting time to be exploring!