Business awards set to reveal the West Coast’s superstars
West Coast cookie makers, contractors and everyone in between will be celebrated at the prestigious Development West Coast Leading Light Business Excellence Awards next month.
The awards evening is one of the most significant events on the West Coast calendar and has been run by Development West Coast since 2011. It was set up to ensure the region’s successful businesses - and the value of their contributions to the local economy - were appropriately acknowledged.
The awards will be held at Shantytown on October 26, when the winners in each of the eight main categories will be announced followed by the big reveal of the supreme winner.
Development West Coast chief executive Chris Mackenzie says there are a range of categories to recognise businesses large and small, those who are well established, as well as newer organisations, and across varying sectors.
“This is one of the highlights of the year, and I am always so inspired to hear the stories of the people behind these successful businesses. Their contribution to the West Coast is essential and without their collective successes our region would not be growing,” Mr Mackenzie says.
One of the finalists in the Greymouth Star-sponsored Rising Star category is the West Coast Scenic Waterways. Owner Cindy Hopper says being in the mix is a fantastic opportunity.
“Being selected as a finalist for the Leading Light Awards is truly both a humbling and exhilarating experience. Should we be honoured enough to win our section, it will belong to so many dedicated volunteers and organisations that have helped and mentored us all the way,” she says.
In the Duncan Cotterill-sponsored Large Enterprise category, contracting firm Fulton Hogan will be battling for top honours. Network Outcomes Contract (NOC) manager Peter Anderson says the recognition is important for each and every staff member.
“Fulton Hogan and the entire West Coast NOC Team are very excited to be selected as a finalist. We view this as not just an acknowledgement of the nine West Coast companies that comprise the NOC, but most importantly recognition of the approximately 90 local team members who work tirelessly to ensure the West Coast State Highway Network is maintained in the best possible condition.”
The guest speaker for the awards is internationally recognised thought-leader and keynote speaker Graham Dockrill. The awards will also feature popular TVNZ news anchor Peter Williams as MC.
A little over 12 months ago, there were major changes around the DWC Trustee table. The new line-up has self-reviewed and set new objectives that will make the organisation more accountable to the community. Chairperson Renee Rooney reports…
Over the past year at DWC, we have challenged ourselves to become a new customer-facing organisation and put enabling West Coast businesses to grow and thrive at the centre of all we do.
It is true actions speak louder than words. West Coasters want to see DWC make sound investments and distributions for the economic benefit of the region. Since the DWC’s establishment in 2001, there have been some commercial decisions made that have not paid off. In the space we operate in there is always a risk some distributions will fail. That comes with the territory.
What the new Trustees can do is ensure lessons are learned so mistakes are not repeated. We thoroughly review every investment or loan as it is closed – good or bad - so that we can all make better decisions in the future.
The Investment Fund is a very valuable asset for our region and West Coasters expect the Fund to be well managed. But the Trustees know that to be able to have the equivalent of at least $5 million available to distribute each year, we must keep the Fund growing by a minimum of the rate of inflation. If we don't, our ability to fund will erode quickly over time, particularly if our investment earnings fluctuate as they always can.
Many people do not realise that Trustees are governed by the Trust Deed. Having charitable status, it is vital any decisions made do not breach the terms of the Trust Deed. For example, we cannot fund infrastructure that would usually be the responsibility of local or central government, and any personal benefit derived by a customer must be an incidental outcome of a distribution. What we can do is provide commercial financing options so if you’re a business looking for expansion capital, working capital, venture funding, asset financing or property funding, DWC is here to assist.
Under our new strategy, the key focus of DWC is “Growing Business to Grow the Coast”. For DWC to meet your needs, it was vital that we gained a better appreciation of the barriers to growth that Coast businesses were facing. So we undertook a survey of local businesses to learn more about these barriers and other issues West Coast businesses face. You told us that the biggest issues were attracting new customers, the availability of skilled staff, and government compliance and regulations.
The survey has helped focus our organisation on services which will assist with breaking down these barriers to growth. If any company still wants to be part of the survey, so we can ensure we have identified the right issues, please contact us.
We are currently re-focussing our systems and people to ensure we put our customers first, that we are pro-active, that we can streamline application processes, and be more agile and efficient. In future, you can expect to see a much more pro-active DWC visit your business rather than you having to come to us.
But DWC must also respect the privacy and commercial sensitivity of our customers. Often customers do not want it known that they have received DWC assistance, so we cannot publicise it. The Deed was changed several years ago for this reason – publicity had been a barrier to potential applicants. When we hear through the media about parties who we were not able to assist with funding, we do not provide detailed responses or the reasons behind our decisions because we want to protect the commercial privacy of those applicants and not discourage future applicants. Expectations of transparency continues to be a hard nut to crack and we’ll keep working on this.
Our recently-released 2018 Annual Report revealed nine commercial finance distributions totalling $2.6 million. This was from 11 applications. Over the last five years DWC has approved 80 per cent of the applications it has received. Our aim now is to increase the number of applications received.
DWC also invested over $1m in other economic development projects and continues to provide $1.2 million to the district councils each year. The Annual Report showed operating expenses were consistent with previous years at $2.4 million, plus we re-invested in the growth of the base fund from which we derive our income, and which we must also protect for the benefit of future generations. The Annual Report has drawn some criticism, just as in previous years when we were criticised for investing too much in commercial distributions or for the Trust Investment Fund not performing as well as it could.
DWC accepts that there is no keeping everyone happy but there is, of course, a story behind the numbers, and I am personally committed to communicating better what we do and how we do it.
DWC is an integral part of the Provincial Growth Fund process here on the West Coast. People may not realise that the PGF is limited to capital expenditure so DWC is ready to partner with successful PGF applications through co-investment or other options to strengthen the chances of success long-term.
The prudent management of the Trust Fund over the past years has positioned DWC to take advantage of the opportunities the PGF will bring. Our ongoing practice of re-investing a share of our core Fund can now translate into something substantial for the West Coast. DWC acknowledges if ever there was a time to leverage the Fund, it is now, and we are open for business and ready to listen. We’re looking for game-changers and we hope our business community will come to us with its best ideas.
If DWC can’t help directly, we’ll do everything we can to help you find an avenue that can. We’re committed to ongoing improvement. Every application will be dealt with promptly and fairly.
The majority of Tourism West Coast’s marketing is funded by DWC. This year we offered to help secure TWC’s future funding and move away from ad hoc applications with little future planning. At present, when it comes to TWC, we may or may not be able to fund their needs because we’re committed to investing in, and supporting, a wide range of sectors. We want to enable and facilitate the growth of our region in many ways.
Despite our new focus being on enabling businesses to grow, DWC will not forget our community groups and organisations who are such an essential part of our West Coast fabric.
The West Coast region needs to be attractive for people to live in, work in, play in, invest in and raise families in. We know that actions speak louder than words, and we expect our community to hold us accountable when they give us our report card in 12 months’ time.
Chair – Development West Coast
A significant injection from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will create new opportunities in transport and tourism across the West Coast and underpins the direction of the Development West Coast 2018-25 Strategy.
The funding was announced at a recent DWC luncheon by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, alongside his colleagues, Rural Communities Minister and West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor, and Under-Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau.
Over $600,000 has been allocated for four feasibility studies in transport and tourism which look set to boost employment opportunities throughout the region. The specific programmes include the viability of upgrades to Westport and Greymouth ports, developing a master plan for Greymouth to rejuvenate the town, and assisting KiwiRail to explore the viability of a scenic train service between Westport and Hokitika.
DWC chief executive Chris Mackenzie applauds the Government for their commitment to supporting the regions through the Provincial Growth Fund initiative.
“We have such a diverse and vast region, but by investigating the opportunities for growth in the rail and shipping sectors, we can connect all Coasters. If we have financial support to develop and grow our infrastructure we can leverage those opportunities to create new industry and business,” Mr Mackenzie says.
“This is a very positive endorsement of our region and we look forward to working with the Government as it moves these projects forward.”
Karamea's Oparara Arches upgrades for a sustainable future
The Tai Poutini West Coast Economic Action Plan 2017 proposed that Tourism West Coast be the lead agency to manage a Feasibility Study and Business Case into assessing the potential of the Oparara Basin.
The Oparara Arches are a magnificent natural attraction that was identified by Tourism West Coast as one of the six iconic places for visitors to the Coast.
The six iconic places identified are Haast, Franz Josef, Hokitika Gorge, Lake Brunner, Punakaiki and the Oparara Arches. Tourism West Coast recognise that people who visit these locations expect to witness and enjoy unspoilt natural features, and preserving the integrity and natural beauty of these special environments is critical when creating visitor infrastructure in these locations.
Tourism West Coast appointed TRC Tourism Consultants who completed a feasibility and business case in July 2018. Considering the sensitive conservation values of the Oparara, they recommended a series of improvements to visitor infrastructure and services to enhance the visitor experience whilst protecting the significant values of the Oparara.
Tourism West Coast consulted with all key stakeholders identified in the TRC report and have put together a proposal that includes some of their recommendations. The proposal is for ‘The development and restoration of the Oparara Basin Delivering a world-class visitor experience whilst preserving the environment for future generations’.
The proposal includes priority actions to support improved safety, security of existing infrastructure, preservation of the natural environment, and an improved visitor experience.
Tourism West Coast CEO Jim Little says, “We are determined to safeguard the future of this natural attraction by upgrading the infrastructure that will help preserve it and to tell the story of the Oparara to enhance the visitor experience in appreciating and understanding the unique history and biodiversity of this special place”. Tourism West Coast is sensitive of the need to ensure a managed growth of visitors from those countries that will seriously appreciate what the Oparara Basin represents.
The recommended improvements include an upgrade of the access road to improve safety (which does not include sealing the road); safety improvements and site preservation work on the Oparara Arch track; a short extension to the Oparara track through the Arch that will improve the visitor experience and safeguard the environment by giving visitors a prescribed track to walk on; a safety rail on the approach to the Moria Gate; an improved electronic security system to safeguard the Honeycomb Cave Special Area; an improved viewing experience at the Mirror Tarn to safeguard the lake edge; the construction of a short loop track from the Mirror Tarn back to the car park to improve visitor safety; and, the telling of the Oparara Story to enhance the visitor experience and understanding of the biodiversity of this special place.
The proposal will be subject to an Assessment of Environmental Effects, which examines the proposed activity and how it will impact the environment in the area. This includes looking at the cultural values, the stability of the landforms, any legislative compliance required, and a full assessment against the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan and the West Coast Conservation Management Strategy policy provisions.
It is acknowledged the management stays with the Department of Conservation and the Oparara Valley Trust remain strong advocates for the protection of the valley and safety of visitors, and the sustainability of the assets.
(10 September 2018)
A series of free digital skills workshops are being held across the West Coast this month in a collaboration between DWC, New Zealand digital innovation agency, AboutUs and social media giant Facebook to help business owners maximise their online presence and support a thriving and connected community.
The Boost Your Town workshops in Hokitika, Greymouth and Westport are the last in a series that has also been rolled out to regional towns in Northland, Taranaki, Whanganui and the Waikato.
The programme provides local business owners and community group leaders with the latest training and advice for building new connections, reaching new customers, and are designed for people new to online as well as those wanting more advanced skills.
DWC’s event manager Aaron Rees says the workshops will help build much needed digital skills on the West Coast. DWC’s recent Business Opinion Survey revealed that 27 percent of West Coast businesses view using social media as a major challenge, and 33 percent of businesses cited marketing / digital marketing as an area of training that would be useful for them.
Steve Adams, founder of AboutUs, says with the right guidance even the smallest business can capitalise on the global reach of Facebook and Instagram to elevate their online presence as well as that of their communities. He says the act of putting their towns ‘on the map’ has a tangible benefit of attracting more visitors and therefore customers.
Spencer Bailey, Head of Facebook New Zealand, says “#BoostYourTown aims to lift the capacity of regional communities to participate and thrive in the digital economy. Partnering with AboutUs means more business owners throughout New Zealand will receive hands on advice and training to sharpen their digital skills.”
West Coast businesses who already use social media to their advantage have been taking part in creating promotional videos for the upcoming Boost Your Town workshops. Last month DWC travelled the Coast with AboutUs and Nomad Audio and Video to interview and film some of those who understand the benefits digital platforms can provide, especially in a region as diverse and geographically isolated as the West Coast.
Register for these free workshops:
The following businesses were filmed to highlight how innovative West Coast businesses are using digital technologies to reach wider markets. Click to see their videos: