Another busy year and I would like to thank the executive committee who have volunteered to find the extra time in their busy business days to support the wider business community through their commitment to the Chamber. I have appreciated your commitment and support in helping shape the day-to-day activities of the Chamber and our positioning for the future. Your executive for the last year has been Fiona Skilbeck IPP, Mark Seaward VP, Vern Merchant VP, Colette McEntee- Secretary, Steve Down – Treasurer, Anthony Congdon, Katie van den Brand, Doug Green and Leslie Nelson. Thank you on behalf of the broader membership who benefit from your input. To those of you who are moving on to new challenges I wish you all the best and to those renominating for the executive thank you for putting yourself forward.
I would also like to make particular mention of Past President John Saunders, who continues to make a strong contribution to the Chamber through his advocacy around planning issues as they impact the business and not for profit sectors of our community. Thanks for your insights, energy and commitment John.
A significant amount of work has been done on updating our constitution as required with the enabling of the new Associations Act, which came into effect in July. A particular complication has been that we also need to ensure we comply with the Liquor Act so we are working across two legislative requirements with an iterative process to going back to the two agencies to ensure that each stage of the process complies. We hope to be able to present this work to members for endorsement after we are happy that we have met the needs of both agencies.
The executive committee has also been considering how we best position the Chamber to meet the needs of our members and the business environment of tomorrow. An element of this has been designing an internal structure that encourages members to become engaged in developing Chamber policy and services and the recognition that we represent members from across the four local government regions in Greater Bunbury. We are not far off being able to circulate documents that outline our thinking around the structure for member endorsement. To support this process we have developed draft MOU’s with the Bunbury Wellington Economic Alliance and the Geographe Wine Industry Association that establish a framework for increased cooperation in policy development, joint destination marketing and other synergies. The success of the Bunbury Marine Alliance in bringing groups together for joint benefit evidences the potential of this model as it led to the Transforming Bunbury’s Waterfront Project and subsequent strategic funding into our region.
A major exercise over the year has been our involvement in the Transforming Bunbury’s Waterfront Project that has seen $46million in funding injected into our region so far under the Royalties for Regions Program for Stages One and Two. We have been actively engaged in the committee under the Chairmanship of local MP John Castrilli and supported by all the key government agencies, the City of Bunbury, Southern Port Authority and members of the Bunbury Marine Alliance. Work on Stage 1 has commenced, Stage 2 planning and the EPA process for marine infrastructure are underway and the multifaceted Stage 3 is expected to be ramped up in 2018 when existing leases at the outer harbour expire and the EPA work receives approval.
Another exercise that the Chamber and individual Chamber members have been involved with over a number of years has been support for the relocation of a State Government Department to the city. The $29million Royalties for Regions funding commitment for the relocation of the Department of Parks and Wildlife to Koombana Drive is the realisation of that work and representation by Member for Bunbury John Castrilli. Initial roadworks and landscaping has commenced with the installation of a roundabout on Koombana Drive to enable access and it is anticipated that an initial 100 administration and research staff will relocate to Bunbury and that this will grow to 300 over time. The development will include a Visitor Centre that will specifically promote the National and State parks across the State.
Another major strategic involvement over the year has been the Regional Centres Growth Planning exercise, which extends over the four local government areas that constitute Greater Bunbury. This exercise has involved wide ranging forums and consultancies that have analysed the drivers of our local economy and our strategic positioning for the future. Many Chamber members have been involved in this process through the Futures Forum, Motivated Contributors and Cluster groups. A great outcome has been that through the process there has been improved communications and increasing cooperation at all levels of local government and the community. The final report is due at the end of October and we look forward to the implementation of strategies that will take our region forward.
The Chamber has also been an active supporter of funding applications to the State and Federal Governments that have been successful for the development of the Busselton Margaret River Airport which will have significant implications for our region.
As well as these watershed strategic exercises the Chamber has remained active in delivering a range of other advocacy services and participated in and organised networking events and forums for our members.
We have held 12 Business After Hours Events that have allowed member hosts to showcase their businesses to 996 members and have worked to ensure that these have included a number within the light industrial areas. We have also organised 3 meetings in Davenport to identify issues impacting that industrial estate and invited the Mayor and CEO of Bunbury along with representatives of the Police to these forums to improve understanding of the issues and to try and get quick solutions wherever possible.
Over the year our 27 member forums were attended by 1350 people on topics that included:
- Federal Innovation Program – Wyatt Roy
- Gas Forum – Bunbury Energy
- Gas Forum – Gas Exploration of the South West
- State Budget Breakfast – Albert Jacob
- City of Bunbury Budget Breakfast
- South West Media Club – Peter Kennedy
- Economic Update – Craig James – Comsec
- Retail Tourism & Hospitality Group
- Tim Costello Lunch
- Nha-Trang Friendship Agreement Lunch
- Chinese Consul General to Perth Mr Kezhong Lunch
- Cyber Security
- Bunbury Stakes Day
We have also had regular meetings with Mayor Gary Brennan and CEO Bunbury Andrew Brien, representatives from all political parties (State and Federal), surrounding shires, Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, CCI WA, SWCCI and many other groups including BWEA, CME and GIWA over the course of the year.
On your behalf I would like to thank Ray, and his team of Alison and Bernadette for their ongoing support. From the outside people do not necessarily see the amount of work that goes into running an organisation such as the Chamber or the many times that staff go beyond reasonable expectations to ensure the future of the organisation.
To our members can I say thank you for your contributions over the year, not only through maintaining your membership but through your feedback and ideas that help shape the organisation. In tough economic times it is all too easy to drop organisational memberships as a cost cutting exercise but isolation makes us weaker not stronger and our future becomes less assured. We look forward to your ongoing support and new member growth as we build a stronger voice for business in our region.
The Chamber continues to advocate on your behalf and I am confident that the strategies we are proposing to put in place will help deliver a direct benefit to our members and the community in which we do business. We are hoping to formally present an updated constitution and proposal for a restructure and trading name change to the members for endorsement within two months. We are also planning a new customer service support strategy for members and a range of other initiatives including a window dressing expo, in the lead in to Christmas, and a redesigned communications strategy.