70 years ago, post war Holland was a pretty tough place. People who had survived the bombings and the Nazi occupation faced the prospect of rebuilding their lives out of the ruins. Businesses had been decimated and the reinstated government couldn’t afford to feed the population on its own.
My grandparents were a newly married couple in their 20s within this world and I remember as a kid being told stories about this time. One of the vivid, visceral feelings that I always had was a sense of helpless desperation that they felt. My grandparents couldn’t think about a future or a family when they were worried about how they were going to make a loaf of bread last a week.
It’s pretty tough as a six-year-old to put through an argument as to why you shouldn’t finish your mashed potatoes.
Like many of their friends, they escaped the hunger and the desperation and found a new world of opportunity when they boarded a boat to New Zealand.
And I just want to dwell on that word ‘opportunity’ for a moment. It’s a word that has lost its meaning over the years as it’s become a marketing/sales buzz word. But in its purest definition, that is what my grandparents found when they arrived here. They found a country that was rich in primary resources but also business owners that gave them an opportunity to learn new skills, to contribute to the economy and to build a life for themselves and their children. And an opportunity for some dignity.
And my point for taking you back in time is that this opportunity for my grandparents and their friends who arrived en masse from Holland didn’t come from a really kick-arse welfare system, it came from the private sector, businesses who are not only driving the economy, paying taxes and providing opportunities for families to create futures.
In this issue, we run coverage of the M2 Success Summit where we talked to three business minds who hold three very different places within the economy.
Sir George Fistonich, who helped create our wine industry – one that contributes over 1.6 billion dollars’ worth of outside money to the economy; Michael Anderson, who leads one of our largest local media operations against formidable and growing international competition; and Max Arshavsky, who is a new breed of entrepreneur, helping carve out new industries here.