As we head into the home straight of the general election, and given the challenges of the current COVID-19 environment, it has never been more important to be fully informed and engaged in the election process, to play a real part in shaping the future of our country for the better.
General elections traditionally attract positive voter turnout.
In 2017, the total number of votes cast nationally was 2,630,173 with a turnout of 79.8 percent of enrolled voters – the highest since 2005.
The enrolment rate was 92.4 percent which is also very positive. This shows that there is a strong interest in national politics.
However, this engagement in the process is wasted if that decision-making is not well-informed.
Just as there is a lot of information out there; so too is there a lot of mis-information, so finding a trusted conduit of information is vital.
Providing the opportunity for two-way engagement between key political parties and local employers is one of the ways that we, as an Employers’ Chamber, can help to cut through that noise.
We also advocate on issues that impact local businesses and the livelihoods of our community, such as the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy.
We are so fortunate to have a strong democratic process that we owe it to ourselves to make the most of it.
I would encourage you to get informed on the issues that will impact you, your family, and your livelihood.
Our central Government should represent the whole country, but that won’t happen if we don’t involve ourselves in the process.
Over the last few months, we have seen a collective, community response to COVID-19.
We have all stayed home, maintained social distancing, handwashed and sanitised for our own health as well as the health of others in our community.
With the curve flattened, now is the time to look at what we can all do to promote the good health of our local business community and the livelihoods of those same people.
There are various ways of doing this, such as shopping local, with consumers supporting businesses.
There is an opportunity too for businesses to support other businesses through purchasing goods and services locally, as well as advocating for local and central Government procurement of New Zealand made products and services where the funds go back into our local and national economy, not offshore.
There is also the concept of ‘buying forward’ – buying shop vouchers, a card for ten coffees or a meal, or paying for a future car service or hair appointment now – to help stimulate the economy and generate cashflow for the businesses that so desperately need it.
This is particularly important in Canterbury given the challenging operating environment businesses have faced in the last decade.
It’s not just the financial livelihood of our community that this will help, it’s also the mental health of those around us.
We know that regular employment also provides structure and routines, a sense of purpose and worth, networks and connections that play a key role in the overall wellbeing of our community, and role modelling for our future generations and workforce.
As this is my last Metropol column of the year, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight an initiative that is very close to my heart.
In my role at The Chamber, I have seen first-hand the great work and outcomes that our many charities provide to those in need in our city.
This year I am pleased to lend my voice to the Bayleys Plate Up for a Purpose campaign, which challenges local chief executives to raise $5000 each, culminating in a memorable evening of fun and food at the Town Hall on 29 February. At this event we will join forces with top Canterbury chefs to cater a three-course dinner for 180 people!
The funds raised will go towards the Christchurch City Mission’s Back to School programme, which pays $300,000 a year towards the school costs of children from families who struggle with the significant financial outlay at the start of the school year. This gives these kids the resources they need to start the new year and – most importantly – the confidence to fit in with their peers and stay in school, helping to give every child in Canterbury the chance to get the education they need to succeed.
The Christchurch City Mission is not alone – there are so many amazing organisations in our community that need our help. As we head into the holiday break, I would encourage all of you to do something (regardless of how small) to help create a positive impact in our community.
One of the aspects of our rebuilt city that is so exciting for locals and visitors is our amazing array of eateries. We are spoilt for choice, with almost every kind of cuisine and style of eating imaginable. I also love seeing the imagination and innovation that has gone into some of the fit-outs to rival even the most ‘foodie’ of city landscapes overseas.
In a sector that typically operates at a 10-15 percent margin, the pressure of increased compliance costs, climbing overheads such as ongoing rates increases and the recent compulsory minimum wage jump (equating to a 7 percent impact) have all put the financial squeeze on local hospitality business owners.
The large number of new eateries in Canterbury also has the double-edged sword of increased competition, with StatsNZ putting the total number of food and beverage services at 1,638 in 2018. Almost every new space being developed seems to have some sort of hospitality outlet as a cornerstone of its development. While that’s great for consumers, it provides a challenging operating environment for business owners.
If we want to retain the vibrancy of this key sector and draw the volume of people we need, the bottom line is we need reasons to entice people into the central city including regular large-scale events. Promotions such as the locally focused ‘Baby Come Back’ and the wider national activation from Air New Zealand inviting New Zealanders to ‘Explore Something New in Christchurch’ can only go so far in terms of increasing domestic and international visitation and spending – we need a calendar of big events and local activations to provide a tangible reason for visiting our city more than once.
Ed Sheeran’s concert in Dunedin over the 2018 Easter break resulted in an addition of almost $38m to Dunedin’s economy. While this was one of the city’s biggest weekends in terms of economic impact, it just shows the heights we could scale to. Christchurch recently hosted music legend Phil Collins, which drew over 25,000 fans, including 15,000 from out of the city, generating over 24,700 visitor nights and injecting $5.8m into the local economy.
But it’s not just about the music. There are also huge opportunities in terms of playing host to key international sporting events. The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 was the first major international event to be held in Christchurch since the earthquakes, with the opening event, opening match and a further two pool matches giving us the opportunity to once again shine on the international stage.
The event was the most popular Cricket World Cup and one of the most watched sporting events in history based on a combination of attendance, television audience and, most significantly, digital media – it was the third largest international sporting event ever in terms of digital reach and was also broadcast to an estimated television audience of 1.56 billion people according to the Cricket World Cup 2015 Ltd PWC final report.
Large events do wonders for the economy – not to mention the positive positioning of Christchurch as a city of exploration and opportunity providing residents, including our young people, with interesting and engaging activities. This should be an easy win; we already have the hospitality and accommodation providers ready to go, they are just being underutilised. I look forward to 2020 being the year that really makes the most of this huge opportunity.
On 19 August, The Chamber celebrates 160 years. In that time, we’ve helped businesses through immense change and significant growth – just compare our region’s exports in the first quarter of 1859 of £92,000 to the last quarter of 2018 of $2.2 billion.
Back then, The Chamber had a membership of 32, most of them traders. Today we have over 2,800 member organisations representing 70,000 employees and a number of industries throughout Canterbury and the West Coast. Members include sole traders, SMEs and our region’s largest employers, and reflect the diversity of our community too.
Some of the issues that businesses face remain the same, such as skills shortages, technology, infrastructure and policy, however our approach to these has changed dramatically.
We also welcome new opportunities, such as digital disruption and automation, business for good and sustainability, and product integrity – all driven by the future of work, one of our biggest drivers for change at a speed and scale unlike anything we have seen before.
While The Chamber continues to be active in representing the interests of the businesses and employers of our region, our remit today is much broader. We believe strongly in empowering local business and helping to shape a business environment that promotes innovation, productivity and economic growth, while supporting strong community outcomes.
As an organisation, our focus is very much on the future and how we can adapt, evolve and respond, so we can continue to lead our local business community through the transformational evolution we are part of today.
At this time of the year, it’s important that we also help those less fortunate. Not-for-profits are a vital thread in the social fabric of our community. However, they are also often the organisations that are the humblest – the ones that fly under the radar, whispering their success stories, when they have every reason to shout them from the rooftop.
That’s why I was so pleased to see the Christchurch City Mission win the Champion Canterbury Community Impact Award for the medium/large enterprise category, and why I am so happy to lend my voice to raise awareness of their Back to School programme.
The Christchurch City Mission has seen year-on-year demand increases for their support, which is compounded at this time of the year with Christmas and the significant financial outlay for families at the start of the school year.
To help ease this pressure, the Christchurch City Mission offers practical assistance through the purchasing of school related items, such as uniforms, shoes, stationery and other curricular material. In 2012, the cost to deliver this initiative was almost $86,000, which supported 140 people. By 2017, that cost had jumped to over $274,000, supporting 470 people.
This increase in demand shows the significant need in our community for this support. So, this summer, we encourage you to show your support – whether it’s through volunteering, donations or funding. The Christchurch City Mission measures success not solely by the statistics, but by the connections made and the self-worth restored to someone’s life, and that’s more than worthy of our support.