Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

John Key aims to attract more Indonesians to New Zealand

"Come to NZ", read the banner, unfurled by a hundred Indonesian teenagers in the top tier of a sports stadium.

In the last leg of his three-day official visit to Indonesia, Prime Minister John Key stopped off in Surubaya, on the island of Java. At a huge event in the indoor stadium, attended by around 3000 people, he launched a competition which aimed to get more Indonesians interested in New Zealand.

One teenager from each of the country's 34 provinces will win a trip to New Zealand, and they will be accompanied by media in order to promote New Zealand as a destination.

Prime Minister John Key outside a stadium in Surabaya, Indonesia. Photo / Isaac Davison
Prime Minister John Key outside a stadium in Surabaya, Indonesia. Photo / Isaac Davison

The launch of the competition, named "Netizen New Zealand" after a local online community for young people, appeared to be a mix between a rock concert and a gameshow. School-aged Indonesians chanted, sang and unfurled the 10-metre banner.

"Be a good Netizen and come to New Zealand", a poster on the stage said.

Key addressed the audience wearing a flowery shirt and a long, pink, scarf. Slightly bemused, he took part in a stunt which involved flicking a newspaper-like package containing a prize into the audience, while the theme to Indiana Jones played.

The entire event was backed by Jawa Pos, an East Javan media company with 39 TV channels and hundreds of newspapers.

It is designed to boost tourism, working holiday and student numbers in New Zealand, while also promoting East Java as a business hub. As Indonesia grows, its young population will generate an increasing demand for higher education.

At present, just 900 Indonesians study in New Zealand a year, compared to 17,000 in Australia - a contrast which showed the sector was "undercooked" in New Zealand, Key said. Tourist numbers from Indonesia are also relatively low.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon [TUE], Key said there was huge potential in the East Java region, which had a total population of 40 million people.

"Everybody rolls into Indonesia and goes to Jakarta," he said "Maybe people don't understand fully what's on offer here."

Several New Zealand companies already had a base in the largest city, Surubaya, including resins manufacturer Nuplex, which has focused on emerging markets.

The port city, once at the heart of the Dutch East Indies, is now a sprawling cosmopolitan centre, where Muslim calls to prayer drift up among endless skyscrapers and construction sites.

Prime Minister John Key and Indonesian entrepreneur Hendy Sentiono make kebabs in Surabaya, Indonesia. Photo / Isaac Davison
Prime Minister John Key and Indonesian entrepreneur Hendy Sentiono make kebabs in Surabaya, Indonesia. Photo / Isaac Davison

Later in the day, Key paid a visit to a kebab stand run by entrepreneur Hendy Setiono.

Sentiono, 33, said he started his business with a single pushcart bought with a $600 loan. His company, Baba Alfi, is now the largest kebab chain the world, with more than 1200 stores in seven countries.

"The key to our business extension is the beef itself," Setiono said. "New Zealand beef."

The Prime Minister then donned an apron, got behind the counter and made a beef kebab, with the patient assistance of Sentiono.

"Just like Masterchef," he told a group of sceptical reporters.

- NZ Herald

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