"If you see one of us shining – whether it be the netball team, the Black Caps, the sailors – pump them up, embrace them, because if they win, we win. If I win, you win. Understand that."
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya's widely lauded acceptance speech as Sportsman of the Year at the Halberg Awards in Auckland the other night, struck a heart-felt chord with many across the nation, and certainly so here at Northland Inc.
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The first combat athlete to win the coveted award since 1953, Nigerian-born Adesanya not only rolled back the years for his chosen sport, he urged people to end the "tall poppy" culture, which, he believes, has stifled potential in New Zealand for too long.
As he said in his show-stealing and motivational acceptance speech at Spark Arena: "When you see one of us rising, you want to tear him down, because you feel inadequate and you want to call it humble."
Indeed, it might be no exaggeration to say that this attitude is sometimes so ingrained in us there are occasions when we don't even realise we're doing it.
Our philosophy at Northland Inc, and that of our Investment and Infrastructure team, has always been to apply the mindset that if we lift one person, one household, one community, one business, we will lift up everyone in the region.
In other words: "if they win, we win. If I win, you win. Understand that."
On the flipside, yes, there will inevitably be failure and there will wrong-turns made along the way in business and projects – no one is denying that – but we are equally convinced that failure can be turned into an opportunity for support, for learning, strengthening and for working creatively and collaboratively; it is never an opportunity for disparagement.
I recently attended the blessing of Heron Ship Repair 's new 1800-tonne slipway facility in Whangārei. This was a fantastically positive celebration of a company's investment, both for itself and its staff. Equally exciting are the future plans that have been put in place for this impressive site.
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Marine repair and refit benefits flow across a wide range of local contractors and local companies, and most of us will have a connection here somewhere, a friend or a relative who benefits from this investment.
Again: "If they win, we win."
The Hundertwasser Art Centre, with Wairua Māori Art Gallery, was a somewhat controversial project in the beginning, and much of the conversation revolved around the potential benefit (or not) that it would create for our region.
Visitors to this facility will undoubtedly have an interest in arts and culture, and this, in turn, will offer an opportunity for other similar experiences across Northland (Te Honongo in Kawakawa, Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Māori Battalion Museum, Manea footprints of Kupe, Raiatea Resource Centre (Motuti Museum) to capture the value they bring to the region.
An opportunity, in fact, where we can all be winners. The winning is spreading, and as Adesanya might put it: "Understand that."
• Vaughan Cooper is general manager, Investment and Infrastructure at Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.