|Creative education: New Zealand encourages open classrooms to keep exploring. — Photo courtesy of New Zealand Embassy
Today New Zealand marks Waitangi Day, their national day. On this occasion, the country's ambassador to Viet Nam, Haike Manning, wrote to Viet Nam News.
On February 6, 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, laying the foundation for the strong and enduring partnership between the government and the Maoris, the indigenous people of New Zealand.
Today is a holiday in New Zealand and as it is summer there, many Kiwis will be relaxing and enjoying at one of our beautiful beaches. But we also take the opportunity to reflect on the past, to celebrate our shared achievements and to look to the future.
When I reflect on New Zealand in 2013, some things in particular stand out for me:
· The rapid transformation of New Zealand society, which is becoming ever more ethnically diverse and multicultural. Our 2013 census revealed that almost 12 per cent of New Zealand's population is now of Asian descent, having doubled in just 12 years, while almost 40 per cent of the population of our largest city, Auckland, was born overseas.
· The amazing achievements of young New Zealanders in 2013 is epitomised by three incredible young women: 17 year old Lorde, who topped music charts worldwide with her album Pure Heroine; 17-year-old Lydia Ko, who is rapidly on the way to becoming the world's best female golfer; and 28-year-old Eleanor Catton, who won one of the world's most prestigious writers' awards, the Man Booker Prize, for her novel The Luminaries.
· Confirmation of New Zealand's status as the least corrupt country in the world for the eighth year in a row by Transparency International highlights the value that New Zealand society places on honesty and integrity.
Here in Viet Nam, the relationship between New Zealand and Viet Nam continued to go from strength to strength, built on foundations of trust and friendship. Our Head of State, the Governor General of New Zealand Sir Jerry Mateparae was warmly welcomed during his state visit to Viet Nam. There was a historic exchange of visits by Viet Nam's Minister of National Defence, General Phung Quang Thanh to New Zealand, and New Zealand's Minister of Defence Hon Jonathan Coleman to Viet Nam.
The two countries also signed deals such as the Double Taxation Agreement and a new Air Services Agreement which will make it easier for our businesses and people to connect with each other in future. Viet Nam remains New Zealand's fastest-growing trading partner in the ASEAN region, and for the first time, became one of New Zealand's top 20 export markets.
Another highlight was the great engagement we enjoyed with thousands of our Vietnamese followers through our Facebook page. We very much look forward to that continuing in 2014.
Looking to the year ahead, much of our focus will be on telling the "New Zealand Story" here in Viet Nam, based on the themes of Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Spaces. Open Hearts, because Kiwis have a reputation for being some of the friendliest and open people in the world and we love welcoming visitors to New Zealand. Open Minds, because New Zealand is a land that prizes education and innovation, and has a long history of providing international students, including many Vietnamese, with high-quality education in a beautiful, safe environment. And Open Spaces, because of the sheer beauty of our diverse, unique landscapes which are enjoyed by millions of tourists every year, and which form the incredible backdrop to films such as The Hobbit.
So you'll be seeing more of New Zealand in Viet Nam during 2014, and even more in 2015, when we launch a series of cultural, business, tourism and education activities to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations. Keep an eye out for us! Until then, Happy Year of the Horse to you and your families.