Porirua Chamber of Commerce - still in business

By Nick Leggett

Unhelpful headlines have recently fueled the idea that the Porirua Chamber of Commerce is no more. Nothing could be further from the truth!

A refreshed advisory board was recently elected and will continue to serve its business membership and promote the interests of the city into the future.

Like many small organisations, the Porirua Chamber has struggled for funding through much of its history due to the size and scale of the business community. Recently it has had to review its operations after Porirua City Council reduced the level of contracted services it had with the Chamber. As a result, the board decided it wasn’t sustainable to continue as a stand-alone organisation.

Thankfully, Wellington Chamber of Commerce came to the rescue and took over responsibility for running our important local hub and associated services, as well as absorbing the back-office member support, event organisation, funding, and communications into its operation.

Crucially, all direct engagement with businesses will continue to be fronted by locals in the form of a specially formed business advisory board consisting of proven businesspeople.

Now, rather than a local board having to focus on the boring (though essential) stuff of administration and funding, they will be free to concentrate on engaging with businesses on community issues and directly with members on training, speaker events, and business opportunities.

The advisory group brings huge expertise to the Chamber: Michelle Robinson is director of Partners Porirua, Michael Gray is owner of Nada Bakery, Steve Lovell is director of Rainbow Digital, Tristan Will is a co-director of business advisory company BDO, Hamish Mexted is director of Convex Accounting, and Sue Mexted a director of the long established Mexted Performance Turf. As a former Mayor of Porirua, and as Chair of the group, I hope to be able add to that expertise. As a result of these changes, I am confident there will be enhanced services for Porirua businesses and stronger advocacy for business.

Chambers of Commerce typically bring a strong business voice to local issues, and just how effective the Porirua Chamber has been is demonstrated by two very significant wins in the past year:

Rating differentials

The Chamber led the campaign against a council proposal to change the rating differentials in its 2017 Annual Plan. Their proposal was designed to cushion residential rates increases due to property revaluations by transferring a portion of rating to an already overburdened business sector. But the Chamber, along with some business ratepayers it had organised, pointed out that Porirua already had the highest commercial rating differential in New Zealand. The council backed down after our submissions and media coverage, saving some businesses thousands of dollars a year in rates increases.

Transport and roading

Late last year, the Chamber called a public meeting late in response to concerns among Kenepuru businesses about traffic and parking issues once Transmission Gully is opened onto Kenepuru Drive. It was attended by NZ Transport Agency and city council officials and more than 60 local businesspeople. What transpired was that the council had neither any up-to-date traffic modelling for the central city or industrial areas that took into account increased traffic flows from the upcoming 1000-lot Kenepuru Landing subdivision, nor any accurate volume estimates of how Transmission Gully would alter things. As a result of publicity and pressure by the Chamber, the council has ordered modelling work so it can see what work needs to be done on the central city roading network.

Without the advocacy of the Chamber, representing its members, these issues would likely have been unresolved, to the detriment of the city and the businesses in it.

The new version of the Porirua Chamber will continue to advocate in the community space, and I believe the change will result in a Porirua that is stronger internally as well as one that is better connected to the region.