Nicola Belsham says the role of Business Wairarapa is to act as an advocate for its members. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

After a year of transformation for the board of Business Wairarapa, the organisation’s new general manager says she is keen to stay.

Nicola Belsham stepped into the role in March to replace interim general manager Peter James, who had held the position since January.

Before James’ tenure, the role had been vacant since the resignation of Vicki Lee during lockdown last year.

However, the manager drought appeared to be over, with Belsham saying she would be prepared to remain in the position for the next 10 years.

“I’m a person that likes to take ownership of something and run with it,” Belsham said.

“Having been on boards in the past, I do think that you need people to stay around for some time. Otherwise, what tends to happen is every three years everything starts over again: every three years, there is a new website, a new logo, a new strategy … what can happen is that you end up constantly reinventing the wheel.”

Belsham graduated from Wellington Polytechnic School of Design in the early 1990s and started her career as a freelance illustrator for children’s books and school journals.

She also worked with large advertising agencies, including Ogilvy and Mather.

“It taught me a lot about selling yourself, but also a lot of discipline around meeting deadlines and over-delivering, because you were only as good as your last job, no matter how good you were.”

For her new role, Belsham had set up base in the Martinborough co-working space 51 Jellicoe, which she said was a motivating environment.

“There’s always a bit of a buzz going on. You’re constantly networking.”

The location also provided an opportunity for Business Wairarapa to have more representation in South Wairarapa.

Much of the organisation’s previous activity had occurred in Masterton by default.

“Going forward, we are spreading things out a bit,” Belsham said.

Carterton would host the next Business After 5 networking event, and Belsham was also looking to utilise Martinborough’s Waihinga Centre for future events.

Based on Belsham’s experience on the Wairarapa Winegrowers committee, she said Wairarapa businesses were close-knit and championed collaboration rather than competitiveness.

“Being a voice for the region is really important. We all ride the same wave, and we can all support each other.”

Belsham said part of the role of Business Wairarapa was to work with the subregional business associations, such as the Martinborough Business Association and Go Carterton, to achieve the overarching goals that all associations had in common.

Those goals included training for small and medium business, which Belsham described as “the backbone of New Zealand”.

Business Wairarapa would work with Wellington NZ to facilitate the government-funded Digital Boost Programme, a course which recognised the digital help many small-to-medium-sized businesses required.

The programme would likely start in Wairarapa in mid-June.

Another important role of Business Wairarapa was to act as an advocate for its members, Belsham said.

“A lot of people making the decisions in government aren’t business owners. We have to be able to be that go-between and communicate effectively.”

Interim general manager Peter James had described Business Wairarapa’s role as being “the obstreperous, obnoxious, little git biting at the heels of government”.

“I don’t know if it’s about being an annoying git,” Belsham said, “but it certainly is about being a squeaky wheel.”

Although Belsham described herself as an upstart in her previous dealings with councils, she said there was a due process that businesses needed to follow in any complaints or appeals.

She said Business Wairarapa could represent its members in these dealings and present a unified voice for change.



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