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CEO Philip Lewin Remarks - President's Reception

WELLINGTON REGIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

ANNUAL PRESIDENT’S RECEPTION, 10 FEBRUARY 2004

Remarks By Chamber CEO Philip Lewin

Ladies & Gentlemen, let me warmly echo President Peter Steel’s welcome to you all. Tonight, for the 148th time in our history, we’re kicking off the Wellington Regional Chamber’s next year in business.

In welcoming you all here, I would like to thank our frontline business partners – Air New Zealand, Momentum, Westpac and now Aon Risk Services who I’m delighted to see coming on board. All of these are fine companies whom we’re proud to be working with on Wellington’s behalf.

When the Chamber was formed in 1856, corporate logos and mission statements were few and far between – but the role our Chamber set for itself back then was that of “building Wellington”. This evening, 148 years on, we still see ourselves as working to essentially the same purpose.

But instead of simply urging the construction of ports, railways and roads (a little more on roads shortly) now in 2004 it’s the information super highway that we are also traveling along - the knowledge economy – as the future for Wellington.

Just like the region we are proud to work for, the Chamber itself has undergone great and significant change in recent years.

If you look around the Boat Shed tonight you will see that while we’ve kept the best of Wellington’s traditional economy among our membership, we have also branched out into a myriad of different creative sectors. It’s not a case of “off with the old and on with the new” - but instead we’ve seen a consolidation and a progression.
Operationally, we’ve achieved budget bottom line for the last two years, and we’re going to do the same in 2004. Likewise, we’ve grown from 850 company members to 1100 over the last two years, and we’ll be working hard to further accelerate this growth rate.

The Chamber’s Mission Statement for 2004 is “to add value to commerce by being the leading voice for Wellington regional businesses, and by providing high quality services in response to their business needs”.

This year, on behalf of all our members, we’ll be highlighting the Chamber’s views and objectives throughout the Local Government election period, identifying business and community-friendly policies for espousal by Council candidates. At the same time, we’ll work with other New Zealand Chambers to promote greater efficiency on the part of Councils nationwide, including possible amalgamations where these appear appropriate.

We’re going to keep on being a major advocate in regional economic initiatives, and make a significant contribution to Wellington’s infrastructure development policy, in particular land transport. In doing so, we’ll be looking to further strengthen the Chamber’s regional identity and support.

A word about regional economic development. Over the past three years, we’ve enthusiastically supported the aims and activities of first WREDA and then PWB. We’ve done this because we strongly believe that with barely more than 400,000 people in the entire region, the Wellington area has to get its act together and where at all possible pool its resources, to make sure that we attract and retain businesses of region-wide significance.

We also value our involvement in MP Marian Hobbs’ “Wellington Leaders Forum”, and will work in this and other confabs to build better political cohesion on the issues that matter to Wellington Regional businesses.

Just as we should take an open and nationwide perspective vis a vis Auckland, so ought we to strive to get the various parts of our own region relating to each other in an outward-looking and inclusive manner. If you like, you could say the Chamber’s agenda is absolutely Wellington and positively regional!

This said, both in our own right and on behalf of New Zealand Chambers nationwide, we’ll also be making a real impact on a tightly defined set of national public policy issues. In doing so, we’ll be building on the principles we declared last year in our “Achieving Faster Growth for New Zealand” series, in key policy areas such as education and training, commercializing innovation, lifting our export game, transport infrastructure: and constraining – but not slashing – future growth in public expenditure.
Of course, all of you as businesses large and small have many more specific and bottom-line needs. To assist you in your daily business lives, by way of practical service delivery, we’ll be producing more and better business networking events, and training courses and seminars region wide – both in partnership with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and off our own bat. Likewise, we’ll continue to support Wellington exporters and importers with trade documentation and export know-how programmes; and also work hard for you to provide a wide range of business mentoring services, referrals for start-ups, and other capability-building products. For example, this year we’re continuing to partner with Telecom, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard to bring you the popular “Business Club” technology series, the first of which happens on the 24th of March.
Like any switched–on organization, one way we’ll stay sharp will by making better use of information technology services to upgrade our interface with members, via greater interactive engagement such as polling and questionnaires, and by maintaining a high-quality membership database.
We’ve also got a new and improved monthly “Chamber” magazine in store for you soon, and you can expect to see this hitting the newsstands around the middle of the year. We’re keen to get as much advice from you members as possible as we put this new publication together.

So ladies and gentlemen, you can see we have yet another full and varied set of offerings for you this year. We want to be an energetic and responsive network that is vitally informed by the talents and energies of our members. If there is something we’re not doing that we should, or something we could be doing better, don’t hesitate to let us know.

I referred earlier to land transport. Unfortunately, I think we would all agree that this is indeed one of the dimensions in which Wellington is as yet not fully built. As a nation New Zealand suffers from not only insufficient economic growth to properly fund first world road transport, but also what must surely be the most constipated decision making process for road funding anywhere in the Western world.

Long-delayed projects such as the inner city bypass, Transmission Gully and the Western Corridor and the Kapiti Western Link road continue to languish on the drawing boards. Please know that your Chamber of Commerce will be turning up the volume on this, and working with other like-minded organizations region wide to ensure that those who make the key decisions are in no doubt about Wellington’s pressing transport needs. Stay tuned for more sound, and hopefully light, on this frequency!

Warm thanks to Peter, Simon and the rest of the Board for their commitment and support – and congratulations indeed to Fran Wilde on her upcoming Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Vic. Truly a great Wellingtonian!

And finally, thanks also to our fine staff, who are all here tonight – we’re at your service for an even better and more prosperous Welllington!

ENDS

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