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Young people give Sir Ian Taylor hope for the future

Sir Ian Taylor during his presentation at the APEC CEO Summit 2021.

On the second day of the APEC CEO Summit 2021, Sir Ian Taylor (Ngāti Kahungunu) founder and CEO of Animation Research and Innovator of the year 2019, told the story of his whakapapa (ancestry) and how Polynesian explorers journeyed to Aotearoa New Zealand, drawing on a whaktauki (proverb) for inspiration.

He said: “Ko ngā tahu ā ō tapuwae inanhi, hei tauira mō āpōpō”, which means ‘the footsteps laid down by our ancestors centuries ago create the paving stones on which we stand today’.

Taking us back to his Hawke's Bay school in Raupunga, he described how he was taught that Captain Cook discovered New Zealand, and only learnt the story of Kupe and Polynesian migration to New Zealand as an adult.

“As a boy I never realised before the vikings had launched their ships across the sea to Britannia, the Polynesians had already launched their waka houroa (double hulled sailing craft) across the massive Pacific Ocean destined ultimately for Aotearoa. They crossed a third of the planet in state of the art sailing craft guided by the stars and the ocean currents.”

His Māori ancestors had to be more than sailors to get here. “They had to be astronomers, scientists, engineers and mathematicians. They had to be innovators. And the voyage they made as we are only just beginning to discover is arguably the greatest story of human migration in the history of mankind.” 

Starting his company Animation Research in 1989, he found early success with computer graphics of America’s Cup races, that changed the way we see yachting.

“People look at this, and go how come you - this little Māori fella from Hawkes Bay, brought up in a house that didn’t have electricity  - how come you’re involved in stuff like this? I say, I surrounded myself with really clever white people.”

But his view has changed over the years. The story of Polynesian migration has shown him that success can come by bringing the talents, knowledge and innovation of both Māori and Pākehā together and by understanding where we come from.

Today, he says he is confident in the future because of young people like Noenoe Barclay Kerr who in 2019 helped guide a waka hourua to Aotearoa recreating the arrival of Captain Cook and the Tahitian navigator Tupaia in New Zealand. Unlike him as a young man, Ms Barclay Kerr has an understanding of the footsteps laid down by her tūpuna (ancestors).

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