Rotary Symposium (or Conference) in Auckland was very good.  Most would say it was more than that … it was fantastic.  Certainly those who attended the Future Leaders Forum were universally ‘blown away’ with the quality of the programme and the scope and scale of Rotary they were exposed to. However it is described, it was a game changer at a time when change and our need to be willing to embrace it is an imperative.
[Picture to the left is Rez Gardi, Young New Zealander of the Year 2017, one of the key-note speakers - the programme can be viewed at ]
There will be many who did not come to this event (formerly known as Rotary Institute) because they thought them, probably unfairly, a bore and a chore.  Fair enough, except that the “good ol’ days” have been consigned to history.
The following is a bit of a potted history leading into the future direction of Rotary in our region:
The Future Leaders Seminar was first held just before the Rotary Institute in Brisbane back in 2012 and was designed to inspire those Rotarians who were willing to consider leadership roles in their clubs or districts to take the next step.  Just as the vast majority of recent District Governors have done the Rotary Leadership Institute course, many have also been to a Future Leaders Seminar in the past. The Seminar comprised a series of high quality key note Rotarian and non-Rotarian (business, community or sport) leaders speaking on pre-determined topics, followed by discussion groups to expand these into the more practical application arena.  The Seminar was an outstanding success.
The participants could then continue on to attend the Rotary Institute, an event at that time restricted to past, current and nominated district Governors.  On both the Rotary Institute and the Future Leaders Seminar organisation committees was a New Zealand representative where the intention was to ‘bring Future Leaders back’ for incorporation with future New Zealand Institutes.  And so it was with the Future Leaders Seminars of the following years being very successful. 
Along the way there grew the feeling that the format of Future Leaders would add new vitality and meaning to Rotary Institutes if merged in with those and that Rotary Institutes should be opened up to all Rotarians.  The Convenor and the organisers of the 2017 Rotary Symposium agreed and did just that.  The success of the event has meant the format will now be the new normal.
The above change has come at a time of wider change.  To summarise, Rotary in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific is about to become truly regional.
Simply put, membership numbers in the western world are declining but rapidly growing in places like India, South America and Africa.  As a result Rotary International is seeking to rebalance districts and zones to cater for this actual and projected change with the next 15 years in mind.
In New Zealand this means that from 1 July 2018, instead of being a Zone of our own (Zone 7b), New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific will together become Zone 8.  For clubs this probably (certainly?) will not be noticed and the six NZ-based districts together will maintain their identity unaffected – the Rotary Oceania website for example will remain exactly the same.
One change will be that Rotary Institutes will be renamed ‘Conferences’ to reflect the new format and inclusiveness and the name will be variously ‘Australia New Zealand Rotary Conference’, when held in Australia and the ‘New Zealand Australia Rotary Conference’, when held in New Zealand with representation on the organising committee from both sides of the Tasman.  The next one is in Hobart and initial information is at
Beyond that change, due to declining member numbers Rotary International have stated that there will be redistricting among the six NZ-based districts to take effect in 2021.  This activity is happening in many parts of the Rotary world, including Australia. 
The basic message from RI is that they want districts to talk among themselves as to how this is to occur and submit an implementation plan or RI will do it for them.  As you might expect, districts want to have a say in how they are to change and those likely to merge together are starting to talk with each other.  It is as yet an unknown but there is almost certainly to be one district in the South Island and probably two in the North Island.  Again, the actual direct impact of clubs will be minimal.
There may even be talk on changes to how districts are administered … too early to tell of course but an ideal opportunity to put all on ‘the table’ for consideration.  One of the key-note speakers was Sir Anand Satyanand [read it here] whose belief is New Zealand should be in effect one district with one main Governor and using regional (sub)Governors with an effect that we would all be ‘singing from the same song sheet’ … working together cohesively; again, one perspective. 
We all know, clubs have now the ability to be flexible in attracting and retaining members so the ‘rules of Rotary’ have been mostly unshackled meaning the only brake is now self-imposed.  Has your club stepped off that brake and embraced planned and constructive change to grow the club and its relevance in the community?
And finally, these regional conferences are just one small example of what is organised at ‘Zone’ level where there is actually a lot that goes on to support Rotary at the club level, it’s just that for the most part it is done quietly in the background and if these are brought to the fore, take note as they will be of use.  Likewise for districts.
NOTE: The above is based on discussion and presentations at Rotary Symposium.
Some pictures from the weekend:
Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko and his wife Marga.  John spoke a couple of times on RI matters and also at the Saturday dinner they were both 'interviewed' on stage about themselves - a great way to get to know someone!
On the Thursday night immediately before the Symposium started may attended the Rotary Club of St Johns dinner meeting.  The over 100 present were treated to a display by the Glen Taylor Kapa Haka group among other entertainments.
As is normal in New Zealand the Symposium opened with a Powhiri
The speakers were inspirational to say the least.  Here Ray Davis talks about the Emirates Team New Zealand Americas Cup Challenge.