Bellingen Chamber of Commerce

President’s Report AGM 2016


Bellingen Chamber of Commerce

AGM November 2016

Presidents Report: Passing the Baton



Before I make my report can I acknowledge with deep respect the ancestors and the traditional owners of this country. In particular I express my appreciation for the Gumbaynggirr people, the elders past, present and future for their permission for us to live and work in this beautiful country.


As many will know tonight’s AGM will conclude my position as President of the Bellingen Chamber of Commerce.


It is a position I have held now for 2 1\2 years and prior to that I had a period as Treasurer and on the Board…all in, approximately 4 years involvement which I think is not bad seeing that Jeannette & I have only lived in Bellingen for just on 6 years.


My first term as President focused on transition and stability, bringing in a new Board and a need for renewal. We set ourselves some pretty simple goals – financial stability, stronger governance arrangements, and a focus on purpose and membership value.


Last year took a strategic perspective, establishing our 4 strategic pillars or directions that we identified after some good old kitchen table discussion and consultation with our members & stakeholders. These have continued to guide us and so are worth briefly noting –


1. Connections ~ assisting our members connecting with

customers, other businesses, council & local interest groups that may be relevant to their business (our role with the Bello Winter Music Festival would be a good example, connecting a number of local businesses with the Festival orgainsers to be new venues for the second staging of this event).


2. Local ~ directing our energies to focusing on what’s happening locally in our town so we can assist local businesses (a good example would be the Chamber’s work on reviewing, well in fact challenging, Council’s proposed Local Procurement Policy arguing successfully that greater consideration needed to be given to the value – direct and indirect – of Council work going to local businesses; pleasingly Council committed to completing a full review post the Council elections).


3. Sustainability ~ the focus is on helping the sustainability of our local businesses, events and the environment (a good example would be our role in Council’s CBD Masterplan Project – we provided detailed feedback and opinions to improve the dynamics and functioning of local businesses and the broader community who frequent them in this area).



4. Strengths ~ any good strategy needs to play off its strengths and here we identified a few of our obvious ones, our beautiful location and our vibrant, diverse & dynamic local community and our work looks to build on those strengths (a number of examples come to mind but the work we did as part of the Gleniffer Master Plan group, working with local residents, Council and through that representing our local members is a good example)


So as you see these directions have stood the test of time as they are as relevant today as when we created them 2 years back.


So with those guiding strategies, the year just passed was about consolidating some of that early heavy lifting of my fellow Board members, leveraging the new energy around the Board table with John Simon & Breana Vinecombe joining us, and focusing on adding value by having regular member events and pursuing a few key initiatives.


Having 3 elections in the one year is pretty unusual, but we did and so we put a lot of work into holding 3 successful ‘meet the candidates’ events, with well over 200 people attending.


I stuck to the Q&A style, not because I like playing Tony Jones but because I felt it important that local business people had the chance to ask their own questions.

And based on the feedback from the candidates and attendees across all 3 events, this proved to be very well received and yet again shows the desire for us local business people to be involved, consulted and engaged. An important message to those who were successful in those elections.


We also held events covering workplace safety, alternative dispute resolution, and the offerings of registered training organisations, but the one I enjoyed the most was on the local real estate market.


We had a panel of the leading agents in town, a great representation from Council with Liz, Matt & Daniel (all who were very engaged in the discussion) and a group of about 40 locals interested in a range of very interesting topics – everything from dealing with Council officers & processs, through to affordable housing, to the cost of sub developments and the land and zoning for sub division and multiple dwellings. It was a mature, intelligent discussion that I hope leads to more as it’s a very important issue that goes to the core of the sustainability direction.


Outside of those activities, clearly the success of the second Bello Winter Music Festival is way up there – Bello just sang that weekend and many of us couldn’t help walking around with a huge smile permanently plastered on our faces – this was so gratifying as behind the scenes a number of us in the Chamber put in many, many hours of our own personal time working with Glen Wright and his local team to smooth the path for the second staging of this event. And with many businesses in the main streets recording some of their best trading days ever, it was worthwhile for all.


Further afield we have had:

  • Maggie Porter working closely with the Events Hub initiative lead by Michael Grieve at Council (soon to launch its own website)
  • Sue Lennox & Geoff Tosio working closely with the BSLA crew


  • Hilary Cadman liaising with Thea O’Conner with the Co-working Group that targets local professionals who work from home


  • A group of us lead by Hilary & Maggie taking on a very ambitious project that has involved all 3 Chambers in the Shire to develop a multi-purpose website to better connect and engage across the community.


Pleasingly we had the maturity to recognise that this project was in fact too big for a group of volunteers, well-meaning & enthusiastic as we were, to take on. So through a selection process we have effectively sold the concept and work we had done to local business people Rod & Jo Keers, who we know not only shared our vision, but will take this initiative to levels of engagement and impact across the whole Shire far greater extent than we could have ever imagined


  • Breana managing our finances and providing sagely advice well beyond her years about what’s happening on the ground with her local street traders


  • Yvonne and John, two incredibly busy people, but whenever they have a spare minute are prepared to commit that to any Chamber activity at the time


  • Richard J as my VP, leading the Gleniffer Master Plan engagement and wise counsel behind the scenes as well
  • Richard Smith our ever so diligent coordinator running the website, the emails, and the numerous demands for his attention


  • And lastly Jan Dark as the ever so unflappable Chamber Secretary….just doing everything and anything without as much as a misstep and making us all, and me in particular, look so good


So to my fellow Board members…..thanks for being part of the team, and thanks for making it enjoyable as at the end of the day, we are all very busy, so if you are going to put your personal time and energy into something, enjoying yourself along the way is very important.


To others out in the broader community, Liz Jeremy, Matt Fanning, Michael Grieve & Catherine Tait being who I consider to be the Council engagement team, thanks for another year of working together.


To Alice at the Courier Sun, thanks for being gentle on your editing of my regular Chamber Matters articles and your general support for local businesses


To the other Chambers in our Shite, the BSLA team and Thea at the Co-Working Group, thanks to all of you for your ongoing willingness to collaborate without any strings attached.


To our local elected representatives and in particular the new group of Councilors at the Shire now under the leadership and direction of Mayor Dominic King, please never underestimate the role local business plays in our community – they are in my humble view the life blood of much of the vibrancy we see today across Bello….don’t take them for granted and don’t think they are not deeply interested in the future of our community. So consult, consult and if that doesn’t work, consult again as they are not a homogenous group so be innovative in how you connect.


And lastly to our members and the broader members of our community who have taken an interest in what we do and the important role of local business in our local community….thanks & don’t let that interest wane.

We set ourselves the goal of 100 members, and whilst we achieved that for a second year, I must ask members that when contemplating the ‘value’ of your membership (and I understand it’s a bit nebulous – in fact Jan will talk a bit about that during general business as we did a recent survey of members), so remember it membership costs $10 per week, so the price of a few coffees, and if you do still wonder what we do or what you get in return – not that the price of a few coffees a week should deliver huge financial returns, but I understand that we all value our coffees differently – so if you wondering about value, then speak to us rather than pull back from your support as many of us get our energy directly from your interest and membership.


Good luck for the new team as with this now my President’s Report complete, I will be stepping down at this meeting and offering my support from behind the scenes, not up the front as it is time for others to take that role.


Thank you


Bruce Levy

retired President, Bellingen Chamber of Commerce