Last Thursday night I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Obama dinner.

I was inspired by being at this historic event along with the other 1000 guests
from a wide range of backgrounds.

There were year 13 students Nisharn (Nepalese descent) and Daysharn (Maori) from Waitakere High School, politicians, businesspeople, tangata whenua, community leaders and change agents for NZ.

I was sitting next to Vanisa Dhiru, president of the National Council of
Women and we shared stories about our involvement in the United Nations for
the respective movements in which we are involved.


There were a number of messages that resonated for me from the big guy on
the couch. The former president talked about the importance of being kind -
something that is not often mentioned in politics.

Towards the end of his chat, Barack Obama said that young people "are sceptical of the establishment with their tired and unchanged systems and they seek to disrupt this".

They need to be part of finding the solutions to the big issues we face. It was inspiring, hopeful and optimistic.

I live in Kaitaia and have been running a business there for the last five years.

About two years ago Air NZ cut flights to Kaitaia and other regional areas because
of the reported losses being made ($1 million per month).

At the time, like many others, I was critical of this decision because I thought it would affect the ability of the community to travel. Also it might impact negatively on tourism and on young people choosing Kaitaia to come and establish themselves, contributing their skills and energy to our communities.

As the leader in a health business providing innovative digital health solutions
for children, I was concerned about the impact this would have on my
ability to grow this business here in Kaitaia.

I hoped that my business would provide jobs and help grow the local and regional economy. I believed then that this decision by Air NZ could make it difficult to attract the people with the required skills to do that.


What has been forgotten in the debate about the big corporate airline
dropping the regions is that we do have regular flights serving Kaitaia that are
enough to meet the needs of someone like myself for personal and business

Barrier Air is an excellent and dedicated boutique airline which in
my opinion should be recognised for its commitment to communities like
Kaitaia. I presume that for Air NZ, flying to Kaitaia is not profitable, so let's
support the little guys who are filling that gap.

Barrier Air needs ongoing support from local and central government to allow them to be commercially sustainable. This will enrich communities like Kaitaia and importantly the air travel industry of New Zealand. Let's focus on the solution and support the airline that IS serving Kaitaia.

I have decided to move our health business, Navilluso Medical, to Auckland. The decision to do this has not been made because we don't have a regular Air NZ flight to Kaitaia.

This has not at all impacted our business growth, which has accelerated over
the last 24 months when Air NZ wasn't flying here.

The reason for moving to Auckland is that it is far more difficult than I thought to grow such a business in the regions. It is hard to attract the right people. It is hard to be taken seriously by the big partners I want to work with.

The innovation we are hoping to spread requires a lot of face to face contact given the importance of gaining people's trust on new approaches to health service delivery. It has been over five months since formation of this government and I have not heard from or had any meaningful approaches from any agency to help us to stay in Kaitaia. Our decision to move was only made recently.

The take home message from Obama was that good leaders have to have direction. They have to have a clear idea on where they want to go and how they are going to get there.

This resonated with me because it speaks to leadership being about substance, not just style. That's a key message for those of us seeking to develop the leaders of tomorrow.