The voices of business

Key issues for firms and the district.

Key issues for firms and the district.

BUSINESS SURVEYORS: Activate Tairawhiti general manager economic development Steve Breen (left) and Gisborne Chamber of Commerce chief executive Terry Sheldrake say the findings from the survey they carried out of 51 local businesses will be available to the public from December 15. Picture by Paul Rickard

Fifty-one businesses surveyed, 14 key questions, a 43-page report and four to-do lists . . . Activate Tairawhiti and Gisborne Chamber of Commerce have tested the pulse of business, and views on key issues for firms and the district. The Business Quarterly has a look at their findings.

Earlier this year an informal, qualitative business survey was conducted via a sample of the Tairawhiti business community, for a range of purposes — to get a better gauge of the regional business psyche; better understand what the region’s businesspeople want from Activate, the chamber and Gisborne District Council; to learn what the perceived pros and cons are of doing business in this region; and to hear business views on where to go from here.

The questions were deliberately unrestricted — as per a qualitative style — to allow for truly honest answers, says AT general manager economic development Steve Breen.

“Information gathered this way is extremely valuable as it reflects how people are actually thinking and feeling — what is top-of-mind for them, and what is important.”

Questions ranged from, “What are the region’s commercial advantages?” To, “What are the main barriers to your business growth?”

One thing that emerged from the engagement was the at-times challenging nature of the regional business psyche.

For a community that values partnership and cohesiveness, working together as a region would seem to be expected, says Mr Breen.

“However, survey participants told us that they saw Tairawhiti as full of fiercely independent thinkers and diverse groups with their own patches to protect.

“Various players voiced frustration at excessive processes and rule-making, dealing with parties or committees with opposing interests, and ego clashes.”

Some frustration came from dealings with the council.

Included in the report are four “to do” lists, one each for local businesses, the council, Activate and the chamber.

Views were strong when it came to best practice for the council, with a short but clear to-do list.

Survey participants called for basic customer service training, working with businesses “not against” and for the consent process to be streamlined. Some participants said drawn-out consent processes could cause some businesses to go under.

GDC chief executive Nedine Thatcher-Swann says they acknowledge issues raised by the Tairawhiti business community and have been working hard on making improvements to the consents process.

“The survey reaffirms the steps that council is making to ensure that people are at the heart of what we do and that our customers’ experience is a positive one,” she says.

“This includes the introduction of online services which will provide for the ability of business to submit consent applications online and also to track those applications.”

Providing proactive approaches to communications with local businesses part of the plan

Ms Thatcher-Swann says providing proactive approaches to communications with local businesses and business feedback forums are also part of a plan, together with customer services training for consents staff, which will be rolled out in the new year.

A 'big-picture, holistic view of the regional economy and wider society'

Mr Breen says although the overall survey results are more of a long game, the to-do lists are for each body to begin taking immediate action on.

Activate’s list includes things like defining a future, forward-thinking and compelling vision of the region.

“One thing that stood out for us was the need for Activate to take a big-picture, holistic view of the regional economy and wider society. This is something we strive to do already.

“There are always ways we can improve and the survey highlighted some of those areas for us, which is fantastic.”

Mr Breen says some of what was on Activate’s to-do list was already offered.

“Things like businesses wanting us to help them obtain funding or business coaching and mentoring, which we are already doing.

“To know we are providing some of the right services that businesses here want is great, but now we know we need to make these more available, accessible and widely known.”

The chamber’s to-do list included maximising the region’s spirit of collectivism, creating an induction package for local businesses and advocating for local businesses with GDC.

Chamber chief executive Terry Sheldrake says the survey will form the basis of both Activate and the chamber’s direction moving forward.

“Across the board there were some standout stances, for example the view that Tairawhiti Gisborne’s geographical isolation was both a pro and con — in the way of export and import issues versus lifestyle preservation.”

Mr Sheldrake says a very clear picture emerged of how businesses saw Activate and the chamber working together.

“Stimulating economic growth in the region is thought to be shared between the two organisations, with large areas of overlap and collaboration.

“However, those surveyed felt that if the chamber is the voice of the business community, then Activate is the champion of its vision.”

A shared “to do” between the chamber and Activate was the creation of a regional business hub. Although both parties agreed this was a possibility, the question was more around where, who and what form it would take — whether it would be a digital service or a walk-in centre.

Although not technically on the “to do” lists, what was seen as a top priority for Activate and the chamber was tackling the “negatives” of doing business in Tairawhiti.

Survey participants said they had difficulty filling vacancies for seasonal, casual and part-time work, says Mr Breen.

“Business felt an ‘anti-work culture’ around drugs, alcohol and lack of incentive, versus the benefit, played a factor in this.

“We know things like this are part of a wider community picture. Between Activate and the Eastland Community Trust, we drive a number of programmes including Licence to Work which teaches work-readiness and employability to rangatahi — as well as support a number of community groups like Ka Pai Kaiti, doing outstanding work to combat some of the above issues.”

Businesses also expressed difficulties hiring tradesmen with specific skill sets and work-ready semi-skilled labour locally, and bringing in highly skilled people from outside.

Security of supply regarding power, water and broadband, alongside sound waste and pollution management, were also issues. Roading issues were at the fore, paired with the high cost of travel in and out of the region.

On a positive note, other areas of the survey showed Tairawhiti’s potential as a tech hub and excitement around the regional Tairawhiti Gisborne brand — as long as businesses were properly supported to use it to its full advantage.

Tairawhiti people were also seen as the region’s biggest asset.

Those surveyed felt that Maori entrepreneurship, ways of working and thinking were a vessel for success for the region that would continue to produce new approaches to doing business.

Mr Breen says that even for a provincial region, businesses felt the emphasis on Maori values was pronounced and that this was a huge positive for the Tairawhiti community.

“It is an exciting time to live and work in this region.”

  • The survey summary will be sent out to participants by December 15. The summary is available to the public on request via k.dalrymple@ect.org.nz

Fifty-one businesses surveyed, 14 key questions, a 43-page report and four to-do lists . . . Activate Tairawhiti and Gisborne Chamber of Commerce have tested the pulse of business, and views on key issues for firms and the district. The Business Quarterly has a look at their findings.

Earlier this year an informal, qualitative business survey was conducted via a sample of the Tairawhiti business community, for a range of purposes — to get a better gauge of the regional business psyche; better understand what the region’s businesspeople want from Activate, the chamber and Gisborne District Council; to learn what the perceived pros and cons are of doing business in this region; and to hear business views on where to go from here.

The questions were deliberately unrestricted — as per a qualitative style — to allow for truly honest answers, says AT general manager economic development Steve Breen.

“Information gathered this way is extremely valuable as it reflects how people are actually thinking and feeling — what is top-of-mind for them, and what is important.”

Questions ranged from, “What are the region’s commercial advantages?” To, “What are the main barriers to your business growth?”

One thing that emerged from the engagement was the at-times challenging nature of the regional business psyche.

For a community that values partnership and cohesiveness, working together as a region would seem to be expected, says Mr Breen.

“However, survey participants told us that they saw Tairawhiti as full of fiercely independent thinkers and diverse groups with their own patches to protect.

“Various players voiced frustration at excessive processes and rule-making, dealing with parties or committees with opposing interests, and ego clashes.”

Some frustration came from dealings with the council.

Included in the report are four “to do” lists, one each for local businesses, the council, Activate and the chamber.

Views were strong when it came to best practice for the council, with a short but clear to-do list.

Survey participants called for basic customer service training, working with businesses “not against” and for the consent process to be streamlined. Some participants said drawn-out consent processes could cause some businesses to go under.

GDC chief executive Nedine Thatcher-Swann says they acknowledge issues raised by the Tairawhiti business community and have been working hard on making improvements to the consents process.

“The survey reaffirms the steps that council is making to ensure that people are at the heart of what we do and that our customers’ experience is a positive one,” she says.

“This includes the introduction of online services which will provide for the ability of business to submit consent applications online and also to track those applications.”

Providing proactive approaches to communications with local businesses part of the plan

Ms Thatcher-Swann says providing proactive approaches to communications with local businesses and business feedback forums are also part of a plan, together with customer services training for consents staff, which will be rolled out in the new year.

A 'big-picture, holistic view of the regional economy and wider society'

Mr Breen says although the overall survey results are more of a long game, the to-do lists are for each body to begin taking immediate action on.

Activate’s list includes things like defining a future, forward-thinking and compelling vision of the region.

“One thing that stood out for us was the need for Activate to take a big-picture, holistic view of the regional economy and wider society. This is something we strive to do already.

“There are always ways we can improve and the survey highlighted some of those areas for us, which is fantastic.”

Mr Breen says some of what was on Activate’s to-do list was already offered.

“Things like businesses wanting us to help them obtain funding or business coaching and mentoring, which we are already doing.

“To know we are providing some of the right services that businesses here want is great, but now we know we need to make these more available, accessible and widely known.”

The chamber’s to-do list included maximising the region’s spirit of collectivism, creating an induction package for local businesses and advocating for local businesses with GDC.

Chamber chief executive Terry Sheldrake says the survey will form the basis of both Activate and the chamber’s direction moving forward.

“Across the board there were some standout stances, for example the view that Tairawhiti Gisborne’s geographical isolation was both a pro and con — in the way of export and import issues versus lifestyle preservation.”

Mr Sheldrake says a very clear picture emerged of how businesses saw Activate and the chamber working together.

“Stimulating economic growth in the region is thought to be shared between the two organisations, with large areas of overlap and collaboration.

“However, those surveyed felt that if the chamber is the voice of the business community, then Activate is the champion of its vision.”

A shared “to do” between the chamber and Activate was the creation of a regional business hub. Although both parties agreed this was a possibility, the question was more around where, who and what form it would take — whether it would be a digital service or a walk-in centre.

Although not technically on the “to do” lists, what was seen as a top priority for Activate and the chamber was tackling the “negatives” of doing business in Tairawhiti.

Survey participants said they had difficulty filling vacancies for seasonal, casual and part-time work, says Mr Breen.

“Business felt an ‘anti-work culture’ around drugs, alcohol and lack of incentive, versus the benefit, played a factor in this.

“We know things like this are part of a wider community picture. Between Activate and the Eastland Community Trust, we drive a number of programmes including Licence to Work which teaches work-readiness and employability to rangatahi — as well as support a number of community groups like Ka Pai Kaiti, doing outstanding work to combat some of the above issues.”

Businesses also expressed difficulties hiring tradesmen with specific skill sets and work-ready semi-skilled labour locally, and bringing in highly skilled people from outside.

Security of supply regarding power, water and broadband, alongside sound waste and pollution management, were also issues. Roading issues were at the fore, paired with the high cost of travel in and out of the region.

On a positive note, other areas of the survey showed Tairawhiti’s potential as a tech hub and excitement around the regional Tairawhiti Gisborne brand — as long as businesses were properly supported to use it to its full advantage.

Tairawhiti people were also seen as the region’s biggest asset.

Those surveyed felt that Maori entrepreneurship, ways of working and thinking were a vessel for success for the region that would continue to produce new approaches to doing business.

Mr Breen says that even for a provincial region, businesses felt the emphasis on Maori values was pronounced and that this was a huge positive for the Tairawhiti community.

“It is an exciting time to live and work in this region.”

  • The survey summary will be sent out to participants by December 15. The summary is available to the public on request via k.dalrymple@ect.org.nz
Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Hemi Edwards - 29 days ago
I would advise Activate Tairawhiti to focus more on the basic principles of professional conduct including confidentiality, conflict of interest, and accountability before they take on any more responsibilities on behalf of the community.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    ​Would you like to see the Government invest in a network of sensors on the seafloor over the Hikurangi subduction zone, and a tsunami early-warning system?