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First up for advocacy GDC’s long-term plan

The first quarter of 2021 has seen us, at the Chamber of Commerce, reflect on what our purpose is for our Tairawhiti community and the value we can add to our membership base. The Chamber of Commerce is a worldwide organisation and in New Zealand has a membership of 22,000, so we are certainly a significant organisation for those in the business community.

We can all agree that last year was unprecedented but one thing we learnt was the power of community. Travelling around the South Island this January, the impact of Covid-19 on communities whose economies are reliant on tourism was stark. It made me grateful that we live in a region with a diversified economy, and the support that local groups such as Trust Tairawhiti, the council and others were able to offer.

2021, for the Chamber, will be a year of getting back to basics — so for our members you will see us focusing on advocacy, capability building and networking events. What does this look like?

Advocacy is about listening to our members and making sure their voices are heard at a local and national level. Our next piece of advocacy for our members will be submissions to the council's Long Term Plan process (more about that shortly). We will also do a follow-up on our successful Trade and Construction Survey — this survey is a barometer for the region's construction industry and an incredibly useful planning resource for a region in need of housing. And we are planning a local business survey in June/July on business attitudes to climate change.

In addition to our advocacy work, we will continue to offer training to our members as well as networking events with our BA5s and speaker events. If you are a member, we would love to see you along at these events; if you aren't, come along anyway.

Back to the Long Term Plan. The process is that the council releases its draft plan and consultation document on March 18, and submissions are taken from March 24 – April 21. The chamber has had a preliminary meeting with a council representative and was told the key areas it is wanting to focus on are roading (and maintenance), infrastructure (pipe maintenance and renewal), wastewater treatment, the Waipaoa Flood Control Scheme upgrade, and biodiversity and water pipeline security at Waingake.

It is important that the views of business are incorporated into the Long Term Plan, so we need to assess what is being planned and submit.

From a business point of view, what do you want to see in the plan? Are you concerned that housing development (residential and social) is not being given prominence in the Long Term Plan? Is the proposed rates increase an issue? Are you happy with the management of the region's water and natural resources? Perhaps there is a burning issue that has not been addressed . . . . Now is the time to submit your thoughts to us and hold the people who we vote for, and those whose wages we pay through our rates, accountable.

Feedback can go to lena@gisborne.org.nz — we look forward to your thoughts.

■ Belinda Mackay is an executive member of the Gisborne Chamber of Commerce.

Interested in joining the chamber? Connect, share and grow — raise your business profile locally and nationally. Contact Lena Bevan on 021 448 146 or lena@gisborne.org.nz for more information.