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The Influencers: Leeann Watson


Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

We’re celebrating Canterbury business champions! Kei te whakanui tātou i ngā pakihi kairangi o Waitaha!

While the last few months have been challenging, we have also heard some amazing stories of innovation, nimbleness, determination, collaboration and kindness, so we wanted to provide a platform to share those stories.

That’s why Westpac and The Chamber are so excited to bring you our new Canterbury Business Champions campaign.
Your business champion could be your own team that has introduced a new wellbeing initiative or new product or service, or another a business you work with that has innovated to make the most of a market opportunity. It might even be a shout-out to a local business operator who provides a great customer experience.

From great feats to small tokens – whatever you think makes a business champion – we
want to hear from you.

Share your story – tohaina mai ōu kōrero – visit www.canterburybusinesschampions.com.

All individuals who share a story will go in the draw to win one of three advertising vouchers, worth $5000 each, from Mediaworks and The Press or one of three $1000 Air New Zealand Travel Vouchers.

Thanks to: Lead Partner Westpac, Creative Partner Harvey Cameron Group, Radio Partner Mediaworks, Print Partner The Press and Channel Partner ChristchurchNZ; Campaign Partners Christchurch City Council, and Lyttelton Port Company; and Campaign Supporters Kordia PLC, Christchurch Casino, Air New Zealand, and Export New Zealand Canterbury.

The campaign runs until November 6, so get in quick! Together, let’s celebrate and champion our local businesses and businesspeople. We’re all in this together — he waka eke noa.


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

Tēnā koutou katoa. As I write this, we are in the lead-up to Māori Language Week.

With a growing Māori population reflected in our workforce, customers and stakeholders, there has never been a better time to grow our competence and awareness of Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique and rich Māori heritage, culture and language.

While our children may be learning te reo at their schools and daycares, where does this leave those already in the workplace?

I am not fluent in te reo by any means, but I am willing to learn, which is why I joined some of my colleagues at our recent Māori Culture and Language in the Workplace workshop – a new programme of learning The Chamber launched this year.

Facilitated by Anton Matthews (Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri), also owner of Fush restaurant, the three-part course covers basic pronunication, greetings, common workplace words and phrases, as well as an outline of tikanga (customary system of values and practices), and an overview of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi) and its importance today.

For many people who want to learn, but aren’t sure where to start, this is a great starting point to gain the confidence to give it a go – in fact, the course has been so popular we have another scheduled for November, as well as an advanced course.

This demonstrates an appetite among our business community to learn more about one of our official languages and share in our collective responsibility to keep this important, unique language alive. We’re all in this together — he waka eke noa.


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

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.


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


 

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

In the last few weeks, we saw the nation collectively holding its breath as it became apparent that our border control and testing regime was not as rigorous as we thought.
It was incredibly disappointing to hear about some people entering the country then disappearing off the radar. New Zealanders have lost lives, jobs and businesses due to COVID-19 – and taxpayers will be re-paying the Government’s borrowed money for at least a generation. If those coming back are not meeting their obligations in respect of self-isolation or quarantine, then there does need to be consequences.
New Zealanders need to have confidence that our border controls, quarantining, testing and contact tracing processes are robust and reliable. We cannot afford to be in a position where we have to return to lockdown.
With today’s access to technology where information can be easily and systematically collected to help manage these risks and reduce human error, then that should be happening.
Businesses will need to continue to access highly skilled people from offshore to help with – for example – maintenance of specialised equipment to ensure that critical network infrastructure is not degraded. Similarly, there will be economic opportunities in areas such as tertiary education. We also want to continue to push for a trans-Tasman bubble to help boost our tourism sector.
In order to do this, we all need to have confidence in the process, because the crippling economic and social costs of another lockdown is incomprehensible given what our team of five million has been through and given up.

 


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


 

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

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.


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


 

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

In the last few months, we have seen unprecedented change, with health, social and economic impacts on a scale that no-one could have predicted.

But make no mistake, businesses in Waitaha Canterbury are innovative, resilient and adept to responding to disruption.

Over the last few decades, we have demonstrated our determination, agility and ability to respond quickly to a changing business environment and are again showing our mettle by pivoting on our product and service offering to adapt to this ‘new normal’.

One local high-end fashion designer is making face masks; a furniture restorer is producing hand sanitiser; an IT company now specialises in setting up ‘click and collect’ services; an events company has taken a step-change to provide deliveries.

We are conscious that the impact of COVID-19 may simply be too much for some businesses who have already exhausted any reserves they had in re-establishing themselves post-earthquakes, however I believe Canterbury is best placed with the structures and processes in place to ride out these challenging times.

At The Chamber we are doing everything we can to support local businesses – and those throughout the South Island through our 0800 50 50 96 COVID-19 business helpline – and are actively engaging with central and local government to advocate for further support.

It is hard to predict what our future will look like.

What we do know is that while the changes we are seeing across our whole community and economy are unprecedented, we have come through adversity before and we will do so again. Kia kaha.


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

We all know climate change is the biggest environmental issue facing our planet, so what changes can we make locally to make a difference globally?

Some people have chosen to make their contribution by switching to electric vehicles (EVs).

While these aren’t a new invention, today’s versions continue to evolve due to significant technological developments.

In fact, automaker Volvo says half of its vehicles will be electric by 2025; Ford says a third of its offering will be electric by 2030.

Hopefully, as EVs become more mainstream, the pricing will also become more affordable.

In Ōtautahi, more than half of our carbon emissions come from transportation, so a switch to EVs is another way in which we can help reduce greenhouse emissions.

Combined with the fact that 85 percent of our electricity is renewable, the sustainability story behind EVs continues to evolve.

The Chamber is working in partnership with Orion to offer businesses the opportunity to test drive one of the latest EVs for a week, the new Hyundai Kona.

The initiative has been so popular that the vehicles are already booked well into 2021.

Orion is also installing vehicle chargers across the region, keeping EV users close to plug-in sources – we even have one in our Chamber carpark!

This complements Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods’ recent announcement about the EECA Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, which is investing to help establish a network of over 1000 EV charging stations nationwide.


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


The last year was one of steady evolution. There was the release of a Government Budget focused on wellbeing, as well as the announcement of a $7.5 billion surplus. There was also the reversal on the tabling of a capital gains tax.

 

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

There were various changes to employment legislation, with Fair Pay Agreements one of the more highly publicised issues through the year. Immigration was also in the spotlight, with changes to employer-assisted temporary work visa settings.

There were the local body elections, and the appointment of a new Chief Executive, which we hope will provide a fresh burst of energy for the council to gain traction on key issues and developments this year.

In the education sector, the big news was the launch of the Reform of Vocational Education, which aims to encourage collaboration between the business community and education providers to ensure we have a fit-for-purpose future workforce.

As we stride into the New Year, I think we will see more of these ‘big picture’ issues being addressed, largely driven by the 2020 general election.
With low unemployment rates – and interest rates – and a housing market that is starting to turn, the economy may not be such a big issue and other key drivers, such as the future of work and climate change will really come to the fore.

I look forward to a transformational year ahead and helping to shape Canterbury as a vibrant, dynamic region that supports local businesses and provides a strong quality of life and community outcomes for all.

 


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


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.

 

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

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.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Leeann Watson: The Influencers


We were so excited to bring the Westpac Champion Business Awards to Canterbury once again – and what a night it was!

 

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

Both of our Supreme Winners demonstrate the innovation and adaptability Canterbury has become known for – Ethique aims to rid the cosmetics industry of plastic bottles and make beauty eco-friendly; TASKA produces the world’s first waterproof myoelectric prosthetic hand, designed to restore ability and confidence for amputees worldwide.

These organisations aren’t just leading the way in our city or even our country – they are world-leading, and we’re proud to have them as Canterbury businesses.

The black-tie event was delivered to over 1100 members of the business community and regarded as the best awards yet – no small feat considering it was our 17th year.

We were also delighted to present special awards to Anton Matthews from FUSH who was recognised with the Emerging Business Leader Award for his dedication to revitalising te reo in Ōtautahi, and also a Special Commendation to Bruce Irvine who has given so much to the city and our region through his commitment to business, governance, the arts and his philanthropic generosity.

Category winners included Mount Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters, Christchurch Engine Centre, Tuatara Structures, Barker Fruit Processors Ltd, The New Zealand Merino Company Limited, Ethique, YWCA Christchurch, The Christchurch City Mission, Medsalv, RuralCo, Canterbury District Health Board, and TASKA Prosthetics.

These organisations reinforce our positioning of Ōtautahi as a city of opportunity and innovation.