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GOPIO in New Zealand: Official Launch
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark was in attendance at the official launch of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin in New Zealand in Auckland Oct. 4. A Siliconeer report.
Global Organization of People of India Origin officials from various New Zealand chapters with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, GOPIO International president Inder Singh and GOPIO regional vice president Noel Lal at the launch of GOPIO in New Zealand (l-r) : Sunny Kaushal, Alkesh Sharma, Ashok Bhatia, Naresh Shukla, Suman Kapoor, Harish Bajaj with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, GOPIO International president Inder Singh, Noel Lal, Rohini Jagmohan, Rakesh Gupta, Manjit Singh, Davinder Rahal and Kumar Bajaj.
The official launch of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin in New Zealand by the country’s prime minister was a notable occasion in the 20-year-long history of GOPIO. This is the first time an elected head of a country’s government — that, too in a country where Indians are a mere three percent of the total population — presided over the opening of chapters of GOPIO, an international organization of overseas Indians.
Prime Minister Helen Clark launched GOPIO New Zealand at a gala dinner banquet at Stamford Plaza Hotel in Auckland Oct. 4. She was accompanied by two of her cabinet colleagues, Education Minister Chris Carter and Trade Minister Phil Goff who were the guests of honor. GOPIO International president Inder Singh specially flew in from the United States and regional vice president Noel Lal flew from Australia to participate. Also on hand were Member of Parliament Lockwood Smith, India Trade Group chairperson Dr. Richard Worth, Human Resource Commissioner Joris de Bres, Indian Deputy Chief of Mission Kunal Roy, Judge Ajit Singh and former chief commissioner of the Families Commission Dr. Rajen Prasad. Many prominent members of the Indian community from New Zealand also attended.
New Zealand is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its waiver was mandatory before the introduction of a bill in the U.S. Congress regarding the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. Inder Singh thanked Prime Minister Clark for voting in favor of India.
The prime minister complimented GOPIO International for starting New Zealand chapters. She praised host Harish Bajaj, a leading community activist in Auckland.
Indians in New Zealand are the fastest growing ethnic community. They trace their beginning to the arrival of two brothers, Bir Singh Gill and Phuman Singh Gill, who came to New Zealand in or about 1890 from Australia. Today, New Zealand has about 120,000 NRIs/PIOs, about three percent of the New Zealand population of four million.
The Indian community had not been involved with the political process of their adopted land. In the recent past, Sukhi Turner, a Ludhiana-born Punjabi, created history by becoming the youngest and the first woman mayor of Dunedin in 1995 by defeating the incumbent mayor. She was re-elected in 1998 and won for the third time in 2001. The New Zealand Governor-General is Auckland-born Anand Satyanand of Indo Fijian ancestry. He is the first Asian to hold that position.