A fortnight in the life of our CEO, Ali Boswijk

25th June 2024

Wednesday the fifth of June I met with Nigel Philpott, Chief Executive at Nelson City Council. We catch up regularly just to see where things are, and what’s coming up. On this occasion we discussed the Long Term Plan as landlords in terms of the consultation they’ve just gone through and the Bridge to Better project happening in the middle of Nelson, what the impact is going to be on businesses and retailers in that space, and how we can support the council and the businesses to help them get through the project. How do we make sure that we mitigate disruption in the best possible way?

Kim Odendaal (Sponsorship Manager) and I met with Tom Williams, who's the Head of Sustainability for Kiwibank who I’m pleased to announce, are coming on board as a sponsor for our business awards for our new category – Kiwibank Young Business Leader.  If you know of anyone, make sure you nominate them! Our thanks to Kiwibank, and welcome.  

When the Head of Food and Fibre at New Zealand Trade & Enterprise was in town we caught up to talk about local food production and the Port Nelson Export Hub.  NZTE has undergone quite a big restructuring recently so it was good to connect with them and make sure I knew about any opportunities our local producers should know about and equally, for them to get an update from me on behalf of members who are in the Food and Fibre sector.

We held the Intepeople Business Women's Network with Meg Matthews with 80 women attending. These events are great for bringing women together who are in business in the region. We bring into that leaders who are living and working in this region and are doing quite amazing things, not just locally, but nationally. Women talking in front of women are often very open about how they've got to that point, what's been difficult, what the challenges have been, and as we know, with the best will in the world, for women in the workplace and in particularly in high in levels of leadership and management, it's still a very difficult place to be. To have that very candid conversation is really, really helpful and very inspiring for a lot of women.  We are happy we can facilitate these.

The next day we said farewell to our lovely German intern, Diana, who was with us for eight weeks. She's been really a great asset, working on event content and the fact that she was under the age of 20 was excellent for gaining a view of how things should look from someone born this century. We’ll miss her, even if she made me feel older than I normally do.

On Monday, the 10th of June I met up with Jehan Cassinader, who was in Nelson presenting at a conference. He was a popular keynote speaker at one of our Aspire conferences a couple of years ago. Jehan is creating a talk around how we deal with negative news and making sure we don’t compromise our wellbeing by hearing too much bad news. How do individuals and teams of people deal with different difficult negative situations? We need to be able to find a way to deal with that because we can't just keep absorbing it. I would like to do something with him later this year around this because it really pervades everything. 

The following day, we held a business awards presentation in the Mahitahi Colab where we hosted about 15 organisations interested in entering our annual awards. You don’t need to come to a presentation to enter, but some people find it helpful to meet and ask judges some questions. We certainly enjoy meeting for the first-time people from businesses that we know little or nothing about. Of course, we’re always happy to see the people that we have met before too.

I went to Auckland with Stephen Broad-Paul (Art/Work) where we got together with all of the other Creative Careers providers. We have been one of the pilot programmes for the last three years and the end of government funding means that it's not continuing in the same way as of the end of this month. We had the Ministry for Culture and Heritage there as well, as funders of that project, plus Creative New Zealand. We know that there's a pathway forward potentially for continuing this at some point, we're just working through that at the moment. Our region’s results of the pilot programme were fantastic. Stephen has dealt with over 200 individuals in the three years and a significant number have moved into something within their creative practice where individuals have been able to generate more income, but equally we've had some people realise it's not for them, and they've moved on to something else. They tried it, tested it, realised it's not the right time or they're not quite there yet, and moved on. So Art/Work has been successful in helping people transition in one way or the other. Being clear and decisive, is empowering. The sad thing about the pilot, is not just that it’s ending but it was only in five locations, if anything it needs to be rolled out further because there are people all over the country who need this kind of support. We know that self-employment is a really valid option for people in times of low employment. So, if people are generate income in a different way, it's a very, very important thing to pursue.

On the same trip there was also an unofficial wrap of the senior entrepreneurship pilot, Primetime, that we worked on these last 12 months. There may well be some things that come out of that we're still waiting to hear through the Office of Seniors but what we do know is that t was another successful pilot and some really good insights were gleaned from each different approach, which if you if you start to put them all together, you'd get some real consistency around delivery.

Thursday, I met with the team from The Ice House who are interested in partnering with the Chamber to deliver some Icehouse programmes locally. Because currently, in order to go to an ICS programme, you generally have to get on a plane and go to Auckland, or Christchurch. They want to start doing local delivery with our help, because they appreciate for people to take time out of their working life in that way is not ideal. That day Fiona Wilson (NRDA, CEO) and I also met with the head of a large company that is looking to relocate to the region and they're doing their due diligence in terms of what that could mean for them.   

That evening, we had our first kapa haka session for the Road to Te Matatini. This was an information session about the event that's coming up in February 2027. It’s going to have a very significant impact with about 60,000 people coming to the region. We want to work with a local management committee to start holding a series of information sessions for businesses. To understand what it is and what the opportunity might be for them. We know obviously accommodation and hospitality, but actually tenacity requires construction of stages, but then they will want to use local contractors. It requires the setup of a tent village and they'll want to use local contractors. So, there's a whole lot of opportunity for businesses within that.  

Later that evening, I had dinner with the CEO of World of Wearable Art, Meg Williams. Just to catch up with where they're at and what's happening.

On Friday, the 14th I met up with a guy who's been employed by Nelson City Council, Scott MacMoreland. He's been employed to look at the internal culture of the Council and is meeting with external stakeholders to get a sense of what it's like to interact with Council. Council is looking at how they are structured, how council is operating or not, in terms of its connection with the community at large, and specific stakeholders.

Then on Saturday, I did a jewellery-making workshop at Bench with some friends (see photo), which was absolutely fantastic. I discovered that I can solder and use machinery, with the end result of creating myself some new earrings, which I love.

I had a coffee with Johnny Hendrickson from Shuttlerock to talk about his global empire and where the business is at. They’re setting up new premises in Vietnam but Nelson will always be HQ.

Later, I met with Matthews Eyewear, in particular the organising team of The Spectacle. We're going to help with this December running event including an information session so that businesses can come along and understand the opportunities for them. So that event will go live today that's just been set up. We're doing it in the Colab sometime in the next four weeks.

I wanted to get some feedback from Janine Dowding about amalgamation because that’s one of the things we're going to be talking about at Aspire. She was the chief executive of the Tasman District Council and was also seconded to government to look at the review of local government. So she's got a really good handle on local government structures which is useful for me to understand and help lays the groundwork for any decisions the Chamber makes on undertaking a campaign to encourage amalgamation because it needs to be done independently of councils. It's one of those things where everybody says, oh, it's just going to happen. Things like this will only happen if you plan for it and make it happen. If we think it's the right thing to do as a community then somebody has to initiate it and we’re fortunate that the Chamber has the tools and skillset.

I attended a city centre business forum, which I go to every quarter at NCC and this is basically looking at issues that are happening in the city and the initiatives that are happening, Obviously at the moment we’re in winter and things are getting tighter for retail and hospo. It’s just understanding what can be done to help mitigate that.  We’ve got the kapa haka coming and that will help and we've just had Ceol Aneas and that certainly helped. We know that events bring life to the city. Also the Bridge to Better project. We're going to be working with the council to do some consultation events so we talked about that as well.

I met up with Paul Miller, who is the CEO of Kernohan Engineering, and he's one of our Cornerstone Partners and we meet up as regularly as we can, just to make sure that everything's going well

Thursday 20 June, Kim and I attended a member briefing with Business Central, which is essentially the Wellington Chamber of Commerce. They were down in the region and we went along as part of the wider chamber network.

That same day, Fiona Wilson and I got an update from a woman who is project managing the Nelson Hospital build, and we'll be releasing some more information about that. She met with us because our respective roles with local businesses. The hospital build involves local procurement as they're going to be staging the project which is an opportunity for local suppliers to be involved rather than them enlisting the services one massive out of town construction company.

I've been part of a local group that's been helping to establish a relationship between George Brown College and NMIT and I attended a really nice dinner with college delegates as they want to build business connections for their Canadian students that come over and may be looking for an internship or something like that. The student numbers they're talking about coming over in the future will be really good for hospitality, retail and other businesses.

Last Friday, as a member of the Innovate Charitable Trust Board, we met and discussed operations and strategic planning for the Mahitahi Colab, which is the entity that the trust oversees. It’s proving a popular business set up for collaborators and I love that the Chamber operates out of the colab.  A decision made before my time, but it’s really been a fantastic initiative and having the NRDA just across the hall has forged greater ties between the two organisations. As well as with NMIT, and Nikki Neate (Colab). I also met with management on the campus to talk about letters of support from industry for courses that they're looking at running.

Yesterday, Fiona and I met up with the chief executive of the hospital to see what things are up with that project and if there's anything we need to know from a business perspective.

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