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Author: Guest Columnist

The Influencers: Joanna Norris

ChristchurchNZ Chief Executive

The second wave of Covid-19 has dealt the country a psychological blow alongside the economic and social impacts we are still experiencing from the first outbreak.
Ōtautahi Christchurch’s Socio-Economic Recovery Plan anticipated community transmission was likely and remains the basis for how we respond to these impacts. Our sights are firmly set on the immediate aim of supporting businesses and saving and growing jobs and, over the longer term we are building a foundation to reposition the city for a smart, sustainable future to ensure intergenerational wellbeing.
Already we’ve seen the delivery of several initiatives from the plan; including the recent partnership with the University of Canterbury (UC) Business School and Ara Institute of Canterbury and Ministry of Awesome through the Te Ōhaka – Centre for Growth & Innovation, to deliver an all-of-city approach to innovation.
Start-ups and businesses with high growth potential now have even more support, advice, networks, mentoring and access to investor and commercial networks here and overseas.
The Ministry of Awesome will be the home for early-stage start-ups – their Incubation Programme and wealth of other start-up support will grow our best ideas into business opportunities.
ThincLab at UC will focus on high growth ventures, providing further incubator support and connecting businesses with the best local, national and international expertise to fast-track their growth.
Without a doubt, you can expect to see great things come out of the city’s innovation ecosystem over the next year.



The Influencers: Paul Lonsdale

Mainstreet Management Ltd Managing Directoraul

I recently ran a place-making event called the Winter Fun Chill in the City for the Central City Business Association.

We received great support from the locals and a wide range of citywide businesses enabling us to offer the central city as a platform where their brands could grow.

It was hugely successful and in the main its success was due to people working together to achieve a common goal.

We partnered with the Christchurch City Mission and raised over $13,000 to help support the great work they do with our most vulnerable people.

We live in very interesting times and we have not yet seen the full impact of how our post Covid-19 world is going to shape up.

One thing is for sure, together we are stronger and I have been really heartened by the way our people have been out supporting our local businesses.

Maybe, just maybe, we can avert a real crisis by continuing to support our own, as we have seen in the last few months since our economy has reopened. Interestingly enough, with travel restrictions the way they are, you start to revisit your own backyard for those seasonal getaways and you realise that we live in a great country.

I am certainly looking forward to seeing more of what our country has on offer and spreading the love around other parts of Aotearoa.


John Bridgman

The Influencers: John Bridgman

One of the pleasing aspects of our work delivering anchor projects for Christchurch is the positive impact on suppliers.

Ōtākaro Limited Chief Executive

We’re spending over $10m a month in the city at the moment. We’ve profiled some of those suppliers in recent in-house video updates.

Local company, John Jones Steel is producing 4500 tonnes of fabricated steelwork for the large Metro Sports Facility. It’s the biggest project in the company’s 50-year history and will keep them busy for a year.

John Jones Steel notes that their staff and families look forward to swimming in the competition and leisure pools, and playing on the court and other facilities, making it a special project for them.

That steel is being hoisted into place by Titan Cranes, which has three of the largest cranes ever used in New Zealand on-site, including a massive 500-tonne crawler crane especially imported for the project. I’m with one of the crane operators who notes excitedly: “You’re never too old to ride a hydroslide!”

But it’s not just the large companies that benefit from these projects. Remarkable Surfaces, a small family business based at Wigram, is spray painting the 487 gilded boxes that compose the ceiling design in the vast banquet room at the Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre.

This is the largest project that Remarkable Surfaces has ever undertaken, and they are indeed doing a remarkable job.

With Covid-19, these are challenging times to be delivering major construction projects. We look forward to having them completed for the enjoyment and benefit of us all.



Marian Johnson

The Influencers: Marian Johnson

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

If you haven’t heard, our city has just launched an ambitious new programme to enable critical support and growth for Christchurch’s most ambitious innovators and entrepreneurs.
The city-wide approach is a key action in the city’s Economic Recovery Plan and aims to boost support across the start-up growth journey – from early stage ideation through to high growth and international scalability.
At the heart of the programme is the establishment of two high growth business incubators which staircase from one to the other as the ventures develop.
This ‘all of city’ approach is underwritten by ChristchurchNZ’s two agreements; one with Ara Institute of Canterbury (Ara) and Ministry of Awesome through the Te Ōhaka – Centre for Growth & Innovation and the other with University of Canterbury (UC) Business School.
The partnership provides targeted support for high growth businesses and includes incubation programmes, innovation challenges, business mentoring and access to investor and commercial networks.
Early stage ventures are invited to apply for entry into the Te Ōhaka Incubation Programme where they will receive targeted support to grow and develop to the point of proven viability.
Ventures who reach this stage can then work with several next options which include potential entry into the ThincLab programme at UC Business School where they will receive the support they need to grow and scale.
This is a fantastic opportunity for our city’s most ambitious entrepreneurs and innovators to step forward, realise their goals, and create the high value jobs of our city’s future.



The Influencers: Antonia Riordan

Compliance Partners Occupational Health Nurse

Spring is almost here, so time for a health spring clean for yourself or your workplace. If you’ve deferred some wellness practices in pursuit of staying in and warm over winter, here’s nine simple strategies for a healthier spring you.

Remember this? 30 minutes a day, five days a week, add in two days of muscle-strengthening activities and you have an exercise routine. Simple! How’s the diet? Practice five plus a day, include whole grains, some lean meat and low-fat dairy or vegetarian/vegan alternatives. There complete.

Rethink your drink. Make it water and reduce sugary drinks and alcohol. Both are full of empty calories and over-consumption can lead to long term health-risk.

Getting enough sleep? Aim for seven hours a night and if you aren’t hitting the mark, set strategies to work towards it.

Quit smoking! Any time’s a good time. It’s not just your health but that of whānau and friends.

Stay covered in the sun and include a good SPF. No need to be dowdy, sun safe can be chic, as can having beautiful skin later in life.

Add dental hygiene to your spring clean. While we are brushing, flossing and probably gargling when was the last time you had a check-up? If it’s over a year, it’s time to book.

And remember, prevention is better than cure. Maintain your health checks, utilise health-screening services and as we are products of our genealogy, learn and share your family history.


The Influencers: Leeann Watson

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

In the space of a few months, the local business community has once again responded to an unprecedented situation with agility, reviewing and reworking not only their day-to-day operations, but also their plans for the future.
In early August, we received the news that after 102 days, the country had our first cases of Covid-19 outside managed isolation. While this was disappointing, it was not wholly unexpected. With many countries outside Aotearoa struggling to contain the disease – let alone eliminate it – there was always a possibility of new cases and community transmission.
These developments are a very real reminder that we need to revisit, revise and operationalise our own response plans – to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
By planning early, businesses can give themselves the best chance to stay open and operate safely in this rapidly evolving environment.
As there is a lot of speculation, mis-information and scaremongering out there, I would encourage all businesses to refer to official websites and trusted advisors to make sure you are across everything you need to be, are planning and preparing now for any change in alert levels, and are able to access the support you need and are eligible for – such as the new Covid-19 Resurgence Wage Subsidy and simplified COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme.
If you are a business owner or manager and would like advice during this challenging time, please contact our South Island Covid-19 Business Helpline on 0800 50 50 96 – and I encourage you to share this phone number with your networks. Kia kaha.



The Influencers: Joanna Norris

ChristchurchNZ Chief Executive

The latest retail data shows Christchurch tentatively returned to pre-COVID-19 spending levels.

This is welcome news for our recovering economy, but it is sustained growth which we continue to work towards, as we know the sugar rush of post-lockdown spending may not last.

Retail spending in Christchurch increased by 4 percent during June 2020, compared to the same period last year – led by growth in sectors including home, hardware and electrical (up 26 percent) and apparel and personal (up 16 per cent).

But, perhaps the most encouraging news was the 13 percent increase in spending by residents in the central city – one of the city’s areas hardest hit by the loss of the international visitor market.

Here at ChristchurchNZ we continue to build on this bedrock of support by extending the invite to people from around New Zealand to visit Ōtautahi Christchurch and explore our city, region and the wider South Island.

From the wild West Coast to the bays of Banks Peninsula, from whale watching in Kaikōura to heavenly hot pools and skiable slopes – we sit in the centre of a treasure trove of destinations and attractions.

But it doesn’t stop there, over the winter months we’ve been working with partners across the city to prepare a spring season of social, cultural and sporting events events.

Our BLOOM programme will return in 2020 to entertain residents and domestic visitors alike and add further stimulus to our economic growth and recovery.


The Influencers: Scott Thelning

Principal Cathedral Grammar

In challenging times it is often the things that bring us a sense of comfort, stability and normality that we fall back to support and guide us through the ups and downs.

For me it was getting back into my early morning gym routine, on my bike in the Port Hills, and supporting my kids on the sidelines on Saturday mornings. Structure, routine and enjoyment – it all feels normal and a part of daily/weekly life.

As a school, it was critically important after lockdown that we returned back to our site with all of our students and staff in order to provide this sense of normality, routine, structure and connectedness.

We had supported our school community very well with a strong remote learning programme, and it was vital we then settled everyone back into school and work in a manner that met the requirements of the Ministries of Health and Education, but resembled school as ‘normal’ as much as possible.

We chose to adopt a simple, safe and sensible approach and not twist ourselves in knots creating unnecessary processes, systems and compliance headaches that would in turn create an unrecognisable environment for our students and staff.

Structure, routine, normality.

Conversely, through these challenging times we are being encouraged to innovate, adapt and evolve so as to meet the new demands of our communities and customers.

The Cathedral Grammar School and Christ Church Cathedral have recently broken the glass ceiling on a 139 year old tradition and introduced girl choristers.

Equality in action and creating a new normality.


The Influencers: Antonia Riordan


Compliance Partners Occupational Health Nurse

A sense of loss of control is a product of the prevailing times and can concern both our personal and professional lives, but we can take back that control and, while it might seem a tall order, the long-term gains of good wellbeing far outstrip feeling less than our best selves.

It’s a straightforward recipe that includes the five ways of wellbeing, better sleep, improved nutrition and reducing alcohol.

Let’s kick-off with the five ways of wellbeing which underpin our mental wellbeing – how we feel, function and our relationships.

Here’s how: Take notice – savour the moment and enjoy the simple things. It not only makes you feel better but it broadens awareness.

Connect – take time with people. Phone, don’t text, and better still, meet up, talk and listen.

Be active – we know regular physical activity promotes both mental and physical wellbeing, but did you know it helps slow age-related cognitive decline?

No time to lose. It could be dancing in the kitchen, joining a team or simply taking regular walks.

Give – do something for someone else. Help a neighbour, a friend, or volunteer.

The power of giving is linked to increased feelings of personal control.

Lastly; keep learning – try something new, from learning a new language to trying Sudoku for the first time; if it’s ballroom dancing you fancy, give it a go.

So don’t delay. Be active, take notice, connect, give and keep learning because these five steps can make a large impact for a better life.


The Influencers: Marian Johnson

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

In case readers aren’t aware, Ministry of Awesome enables and supports high growth entrepreneurship and innovation in Christchurch and, increasingly, across New Zealand.

Why is this important? Because our city, our country and the world are undergoing a massive period of transition, stemming from the rapid uptake of technology, globalisation and the urgent requirement to live, work and produce sustainably.

With this rapid change comes incredible opportunity to disrupt and innovate. Enter the startup.

The biggest challenge Ministry of Awesome and other startup hubs in New Zealand have had is accessing a talent pipeline of potential startup founders. COVID has changed that with a national talent pipeline of more than 260,000 capable Kiwis suddenly unemployed, grounded from OEs, and newly returned.

Imagine if each of them became founders of high growth startups with global ambition? Our startup and innovation ecosystem would explode and future New Zealand would be assured of its world-first innovations and high value jobs.

We know that startup life is not for everyone. Many of us Kiwis are entrepreneurs but only a fraction of us are startup founders.

The difference between a small business and a startup is that the latter generally has an innovation at its heart and an ambition for rapid global growth.

While small businesses contribute some 30 percent of New Zealand’s GDP, it is startups that will have a more permanent impact on the future economic landscape of our country.

Yes, COVID has thrown us a lemon but there’s no time like the present to make startup lemonade.