metropol » Leeann Watson

Tag: Leeann Watson

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.






Hospitality sector hungry for visitors: Chamber of Commerce

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.



By Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson



Leeann Watson

Leeann Watson: The Influencers

Education been in the spotlight in recent months – and a shake-up of the sector has been long overdue.


Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

The most significant development has been the decision on the Review of Vocational Education (RoVE), with 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics to be merged into the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST) from 1 April 2020, and a handful of Workforce Development Councils to be created.

We look forward to seeing greater collaboration between training providers and the business community to ensure training is fit for purpose and aligned with the skills needed by the industry now and into the future, and to support economic growth, taking into account regional nuances. With the announcement of the NZIST Establishment Board being based in Christchurch, this invites an opportunity to present a strong business case to house the national head office in Christchurch, creating over 100 jobs and reinforcing our position as a national centre for education and innovation.

It’s also imperative we focus on lifelong learning and integrated education that responds to the changing nature of work. That’s why we welcomed the Government’s recent announcement of an additional $14.5 million to the employer-led workplace literacy and numeracy fund – bringing its total contribution to $45 million over the next four years.

Lifelong learning gives employees the opportunity to continue with personal development, enabling them to step into higher-level roles or learn new skills to carry them through different jobs and industries. It also enables the employer to increase productivity meaning that re-training and re-deployment is a priority now more than ever.





Now is the time to get involved

It’s shaping up to be an exciting local body election in Christchurch. There are a number of contenders for the mayoralty race, which is producing some lively debate. We hope that this will also translate to more people having their say at the polling booths.



In 2016, just 38 percent of people eligible to vote in Christchurch did so. This reflects a general downward trend in voter turnout for local government elections. Throughout the country, voter turnout for local elections was only a little higher at 42 percent.

Compare this to parliamentary elections in 2017, where turnout was almost 75 percent. So why is there less interest and engagement in local body elections? Given the potential impact on our lives in terms of provision of services and shaping public policy, it could be argued that local government has a much more direct impact.

My guess is that a lack of interest is fuelled by the unknown factor. People just don’t know who is running or what they stand for. Local candidates don’t have the same campaign budget as our national governing parties – but they do have presence. So I would encourage candidates to voice their views and for residents to get behind the process by asking the tough questions of their candidates.

As an Employers’ Chamber, we are interested in hearing about what candidates will do to support local businesses and enable economic growth in the region. In particular, what candidates will set out to achieve at a practical, tangible level, beyond just big picture aspirations.

Asset management is one of the issues that has been around for a while now and it’s one that we keep returning to – so this will be top of our question list for candidates. Clutching on to the old ways of doing things will only get us so far; we need to look at new innovative ways of doing things differently, such as bringing partners on board for strategic collaborations.

The current council has also done well to put the central city in the spotlight. As the heart of our region, we need to ensure that our future council understands the gravity of getting it right. So what do candidates think should be done to further promote economic activity in the CBD?

The vision in the Long Term Plan was Christchurch as a place of opportunity for all – a place that is open to new ideas, new people and new ways of doing things; a place where anything is possible. But where is the tangible plan to align this with reality?

It also comes down to communication. People need to know what’s happening – or not happening – and why. The local community needs confidence to know that we are being kept in the loop and the certainty that our rates and taxes are being spent wisely and well.

We are so fortunate to have a strong democratic process that we owe it to ourselves to make the most of it. Have a say. Voice your opinion. Ask the tough questions. And above all, vote. Our local government should represent our community, but that won’t happen if we don’t involve ourselves in the process. Now is the time that you can make a difference.


By Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson
Leeann Watson

Leeann Watson: The Influencers

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.


Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

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.





Leeann Watson: The Influencers

Now that it’s well and truly the middle of winter, it’s great to see ChristchurchNZ’s new central city winter campaign really taking shape.

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

The message is simple: Baby Come Back.

The retro-styled campaign is aimed at encouraging Christchurch residents back into our central city, and to promote foot traffic through the retail, bars and restaurants in the CBD over the winter months and beyond.

It’s so positive and exciting to see a dedicated campaign aimed at supporting those businesses that have taken the lead in regenerating our CBD through their investments in our central city. It’s bold, vibrant, fun and showcases some of the great attractions in our own backyard.

It’s also local. It was created in collaboration with central city businesses and stakeholders, ensuring it can be leveraged by all parties.

To date we have seen positive trends in central city spending, with annual growth up by almost 15% compared to last year – driven by a combination of increased spending by local residents, residents from nearby regions and international visitors, with locals leading the charge.

Locals who come in to explore what’s on offer in the four avenues will find a number of new developments – such as the new boutique cinema Lumière at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, and the soon-to-be completed Riverside Market, which will welcome more than 70 boutique vendors within the four inter-connected buildings in spring this year. It’s all adding up to a lot to come back to.




Leeann Watson

Leeann Watson: The Influencers

As we head into the cooler winter months, we are excited about the tourism campaign inviting New Zealanders to ‘Explore Something New in Christchurch’, launched recently.

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

This comes out of a Memorandum of Understanding city agencies, including The Chamber, signed with Air New Zealand to work with the airline to explore joint marketing activity, enhanced freight and passenger capacity, and signature events. The campaign aims to not only drive domestic travel to Ōtautahi Christchurch but also change perceptions of our city.

As part of this campaign, an interactive phone game has been launched showcasing Christchurch attractions. This has created further excitement about our city, using technology in a fun and engaging way to appeal to a wider range of people, while also informing New Zealanders about the huge range of experiences we have in our very own backyard.

In the central city, the council has appointed a city activator to organise and promote central city street-based entertainment over the cooler winter months, with the first activation called Winter Circus. This will include free, world-class live circus and busking acts in two performance spaces over Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes in June and July – great entertainment to go with some of the amazing food on offer at our local eateries.

These campaigns will build on what was a spectacular summer, with record-breaking tourist numbers injecting more than $3.6 billion into our region’s economy. With our regional visitor sector continuing to grow strongly, and measures now surpassing pre-earthquake levels, Christchurch is well on its way to becoming ‘something new’.