Businesses could form breakaway

Tim Cadogan
Tim Cadogan
The merger of two southern business advocacy groups poses an opportunity for Central Otago to join forces with the Wanaka and Queenstown chambers of commerce and potentially break ties.

That is the opinion of Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan who raised the issue at a full meeting of the Central Otago District Council on Wednesday.

This followed the Otago Chamber of Commerce voting to go forward with the merger with the Otago Southland Employers’ Association (OSEA) last week.

The new entity will be known as Business South.

"We find ourselves in a position where the chamber board and the OSEA have decided to merge.

"From 980 members the fate was decided by 37 last week," Mr Cadogan said.

Central Otago had more than 100 members on the chamber, he told councillors, and said he would talk with the Queenstown and Wanaka chambers of commerce about the future.

Mr Cadogan yesterday said he questioned the merger decision and consultation around it "despite the fact it [the chamber] has got around 1000 members".

He had "grave concerns" about effects in Central Otago.

"Not a clear enough story has been told as to what the benefits are and ... the detriments."

The chamber had been a "very, very helpful group" and he praised the efforts of the chamber’s chief executive Dougal McGowan as instrumental in increasing numbers in the region.

"The CEO and staff have been engaging with business in Central Otago and we now have 110 members.

"There is the risk of losing that setup in Central."

Mr Cadogan said there had been discussion with the Wanaka Chamber of Commerce and opening dialogue with its Queenstown counterpart was pending.

"Basically I have said ‘let’s have a talk’, it’s something we need to consider."

Otago Chamber of Commerce president Grant McKenzie said he had met Mr Cadogan and the chamber’s Central Otago sub-committee chairman, Nigel Smellie, to address concerns.

"We are and will continue to be supporting the businesses of Central Otago as we have in the past."

A full vote on the merger was due to be completed next Wednesday, he said.

"We have also been engaging with the other local chambers to answer their questions and concerns."

Last week, the Southland Chamber of Commerce and that region’s economic development agency Great South spoke out against the Business South merger with concerns the name would confuse businesses and compete for membership.

The Otago Chamber and the OESA each have one more special general meeting to finally vote on the merger proposal next Thursday and on October 21, respectively.

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