Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Strong male voices joining equality drive

Exiting British envoy says she is proud senior politicians are taking lead on women's issues

Vicki Treadell is pleased male leaders, including William Hague with his summit with Angelina Jolie (below), are taking the initiative. Photo / AP
Vicki Treadell is pleased male leaders, including William Hague with his summit with Angelina Jolie (below), are taking the initiative. Photo / AP

Britain's outgoing High Commissioner Vicki Treadell says she is proud that male leaders are taking the initiative on issues to do with women and girls.

Prime Minister David Cameron is soon to host a Girls Summit to address the issue of female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage.

And Foreign Secretary William Hague had just hosted an international conference with Angelina Jolie aimed at ending sexual violence in wars.

Angelina Jolie. Photo / AP
Angelina Jolie. Photo / AP

"I am very proud of Britain that we have senior politicians who are taking a global cause and trying to have the thought leadership on it and using their position to bring nations together," Ms Treadell said. "We need more men to champion this. It is not a women's issue. I am really proud that my Prime Minister and my Foreign Secretary are standing up and being counted."

Mr Hague has visited New Zealand twice since Mrs Treadell became High Commissioner, the first in 2011.

Twice in four years is something she points to as evidence of a more active relationship.

She cannot comment on the prospect of Mr Cameron visiting but Prime Minister John Key has asked him to come while he is in this part of the world in November for the G20 in Brisbane.

She says there are "modern similarities" between Britain and New Zealand which might not be obvious.

"Modern Britain is a multicultural country. If you go somewhere like London it is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in a way New Zealand celebrates Auckland as one of the most cosmopolitan cities," she said. "Modern Britain is quite a different country to the one that a certain generation refers to as 'the old country'."

Asked about her attitude to Maori powhiri, where women are usually required to sit away from the front row, she said she was not expecting it.

"It was one of the things that surprised me when I came to New Zealand, that as the country that first gave women the vote, there is still this traditional aspect where under culture women have to be protected and stand behind the men."

But she has learned to understand it.

Mrs Treadell's New Zealand posting has coincided with a sharp focus on the Five Eyes intelligence alliance among New Zealand, Britain, United States, Australia and Canada.

She thinks the Edward Snowden leaks have made the alliance closer and thinks there should be a better informed debate about the alliance.

Mrs Treadell says she will leave New Zealand with the satisfaction of having helped to "modernise" the relationship between New Zealand and Britain and part of that was focusing on inward investment.

It wasn't well known that Britain was the third largest foreign investment source in New Zealand.

"We have an ongoing stake in this country."

Vodafone would be the anchor tenant in the innovation precinct in Christchurch with a $50 million investment. Another less known company, OCS, was a facilities management company and between it and Vodafone, employed about 8000 New Zealanders. She had also talked to some New Zealand companies about potential partnerships with British companies in markets such as China.

"The modern international business relationship isn't just what we sell to each other in old-fashioned export terms. It is also how we can collaborate whether through strategic alliances, or more formal joint ventures or joint ownership models.

"We are really relevant in your modern economy."

Vicki Treadell
• Britain's High Commissioner to New Zealand.
• Leaving to head Britain's mission in Malaysia.
• Began her NZ role in May 2010.
• Will be succeeded by Jonathan Sinclair, who has previously served in India and the US.

Read Audrey Young's interview with Mrs Treadell here

- NZ Herald

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