One eye on the horizon
Recently I have been thinking about the role of the Gisborne Chamber of Commerce in our region. There are a lot of excellent businesses in our community where people are head down, getting on with business. The local economy is in a good space.
Forestry volumes continue to increase and prices have slightly recovered from a recent dip; sheep and beef prices are very high, which puts money in farmers’ pockets — a lot of which gets spent in town; horticulture is strong, with new permanent crop projects continuing on the Flats.
House prices are solid, which is driving house renovation and new construction projects. These prices are propped up by strong demand for housing as businesses employ more people.
Properties in the Aerodrome Road business park development sold quickly. Shane Jones has assisted the region by promising to invest $200 million. Sixteen cruise ship visits are planned for summer — further support for tourist spending that has been on the increase lately. And the Reserve Bank is keeping interest rates low so borrowing money is cheap. The planets are aligned and it will last forever, right?
Business people are human too and as humans we tend to relax when everything is going well. Certainly, we should enjoy the good times, but we should also keep one eye on the future. And there are plenty of tell-tale warning signs that suggest businesses have to adapt, modify and consider the way that their business operates.
Our region is really wasteful with our water resource; we tend to be a net polluter of our water; we tend to use chemical fertilisers rather than organic fertilisers; the world is awash with plastic; we produce more waste than we should; we use too many fossil fuels in our trucks, cars and lighting; biodiversity is reducing and the possums and stoats are winning.
Business (and everyone) is constantly being told that we have to be more “sustainable” and “environmentally friendly” and more like the Scandanavians! (They are so good). Businesses can join any number of organisations: Climate Leaders Coalition, Sustainable Business Network, Sustainable Business Council, UN Sustainable Business. But what is a business really to do?
The Gisborne Chamber of Commerce is part of a wider international network of business chambers around the world. Collectively we are part of the International Chambers of Commerce, or ICC, and we use this extensive network to capture new ideas for the advocacy and promotion of the business environment.
In recent years, it has been more about business and the environment. We have recently signed up to a Chamber Climate Coalition, an international movement founded on the view that the practical response to climate change must be rooted in local businesses and communities.
Now you could say, “So what! Another organisation”, and you would be right; signing up won’t make any difference if there are no actual changes and actions — in just the same way that the council simply declaring a Climate Emergency will not in itself change anything.
So we can’t just talk, we need to help lead and support climate change responses in this region’s business community. In general we can’t worry about the rest of the world’s problems but we have the power to solve our own problems, and in some cases to be a significant leader nationally. (Don’t get me started about the reuse of wastewater for irrigation).
With this in mind, I am looking forward to 2020 at the Gisborne Chamber of Commerce. We have restructured operations with the exit of Terry Sheldrake to take up a seat on the council. Lena Bevan has been appointed to the role of manager and provides new insight and ideas, which is exciting. We will use the platform of our First Thursday networking events at the Works and BA5s to discuss and showcase some of the most excellent talent and ideas we have in our community, and hopefully inspire locals to do more to make a difference.
Paul Naske is president of Gisborne Chamber of Commerce.