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The Influencers: Leeann Watson


The recently announced trans-Tasman travel bubble has come as welcome relief. Prior to Covid-19, Australia was our largest international visitor market, accounting for almost half of all international visitor arrivals, and spending approximately $2.7 billion.

 

CANTERBURY EMPLOYERS’ CHAMBER OF COMMERCE | CHIEF EXECUTIVE

 

So as we head into the colder months, an influx of visitors from Australia will have a significant positive impact on many businesses, particularly in hospitality and tourism.

It will also be a boost for small businesses that rely on international tourism spend, and are shouldering additional costs of operating in a Covid-19 environment and with the recently increased minimum wage.

Our ski season is a drawcard, and with 53 percent of Australian holiday visitors flying direct to the South Island pre-Covid-19, this will help to spread some economic benefits to smaller tourism-reliant regions that are really hurting – as well as Ōtautahi Christchurch as the gateway to the south.

A safe travel zone will also remove a significant hurdle for businesses reliant on trans-Tasman travel, particularly under-pressure exporters and manufacturers.

We know how important this travel bubble is for the health and wellbeing of those unable to visit with friends and whānau across the Tasman for over a year.

With the vaccination roll-out gaining momentum, we are optimistic we are reaching a turning point in our response to one of the most significant economic disruptors of a generation.


 

Leeann Watson

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


The last few weeks have intensified the spotlight on Covid-19. We have seen changes in Alert Levels, which have again caused disruption in our community. However this time we were all better prepared, with systems and practices in place to be able to respond.

 

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

 

This was foreshadowed by the announcement of the arrival of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and planned roll-out throughout the population. The vaccine is positive news because it provides a degree of certainty and confidence for the community as well as businesses.

It is also an important milestone in moving towards operating in an environment with Covid-19 given the likelihood of this pandemic being around for the foreseeable future, following the latest outbreaks offshore.

As the roll-out progresses, we will be working with government to ensure there is good science and evidenced-based information around the vaccination for all employers to pass on to their employees, to ensure we are all able to make well-informed decisions.

It will be interesting to see the impact of the vaccine on how we manage our borders and Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) facilities and how this will evolve as we learn more about the virus and continue to develop technology and systems for rapid tracking and tracing of cases.

As the reality is that we need to learn to live with Covid-19 and in such a way that businesses can continue to operate, trade and travel in a Covid-19-safe way to continue to support our economy and the livelihoods of all New Zealanders.


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


CANTERBURY EMPLOYERS’ CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE

Ngā mihi o te tau hou Happy new year! As I write my first Metropol column of 2021, I strongly believe the year ahead is full of possibility.

We have come off the back of a tumultuous year, our lives upended by Covid-19 heralding a new normal in the way we live, and the way we conduct business.

Almost overnight, there was a change in what was possible, with many shifting to remote working, virtual learning and online shopping.

There was also not the predicted economic freefall. After the initial shock, economic activity proved far stronger and more persistent than first thought.

Many key sectors fared better than expected, with the city seeing an overall spending increase of 4 percent for December 2020 to $604m compared with the same month last year.

Spending in the central city was up 9 percent to $51m for the same period. Domestic visitor spend was also up 20 percent, reaching $54m (although unable to offset the 76 percent drop in international spend).

As we leave the holiday season it is important we continue to honour the mantra of buy and support local, and embrace our uniqueness, building on existing strengths and stay willing to incorporate new approaches.

If we leverage Covid-19 as a catalyst for positive change, we can accelerate our transformation to a more productive and sustainable economy, living up to the promise of a happy and prosperous new year.


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive

As I write my final Metropol column of the year, the last twelve months seem to have flown by.

And what a year it has been – one that none of us could have predicted and one we certainly won’t forget in a hurry.

So I’m pleased to be able to end the year on a positive note. The latest in retail spending suggests our community is heeding the call to support local and to spend to accelerate our economic recovery.

In October, more than half a billion dollars was spent at local retailers and eateries – an increase of seven percent from the same month last year.

Spending in the central city also increased for the same period, up 12 percent to $39 million. This shows that despite Covid-19, consumer confidence is high.

I have no doubt this trend will continue over the summer, with several events coming up which will help to support our economy.

Such as the University of Canterbury graduation ceremonies currently underway, the Bread & Circus Backyard Buskers Festival in mid-January, the Council’s SummerTimes events programme, and the cricket (a personal favourite!).

Not to mention the Great Kiwi Beer Festival at the end of January, and the Nostalgia Festival in February.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy some of these events – and support our local businesses in the process.

With Christmas just around the corner, I wish you Meri Kirihimete (Merry Christmas) and a safe summer season.


 

The Influencers: Leeann Watson


Through our Canterbury Business Champions campaign, we have heard some amazing stories of innovation, nimbleness, determination, collaboration and kindness, and together celebrated what it is that makes our business community so unique.

While in a “normal” year we would showcase our local champions at our Westpac Champion Business Awards, given the uncertainty of running events during Covid-19, this year we evolved the celebration and took it online to collectively champion all businesses – as there has never been a better time to share positive stories about our business community than right now.

This provided a great platform to be able to share some of the region’s best kept secrets.

Such as 27Seconds, a local wine producer that gives away 100 percent of the organisation’s profits to help survivors of slavery.

Or out-of-school care provider MASH Kids that during lockdown adapted by creating MASH Nannies and Babysitters.

And motorcycle touring company South Pacific Motorcycle Tours which used to cater solely to international tourists, but now offers motorcycle servicing and repairs, rentals, and a maintenance workshop, as well as organising events and tours.

These stories demonstrate the innovation and drive that Waitaha Canterbury has become known for.

Congratulations to the winners of the $18,000 of spot prizes, including three advertising vouchers worth $5000 each from Mediaworks and The Press, and three $1000 Air New Zealand Travel Vouchers.

Finally, a big thank-you to everyone who shared a story – you can view the collection of stories at canterburybusinesschampions.com.


 

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.