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Claudelands hosts major economic development conferences

An impressive list of keynote speakers and national and local Government politicians met at Claudelands in Hamilton this month for two important conferences; the Local Government New Zealand Conference and EDANZ, National Forum on Economic Development.

The two conferences ran consecutively at the state-of-the-art Claudelands Conference and Exhibition Centre with high-powered delegates from New Zealand and Australia including Mayors, Government representatives and political commentators.

The first, the Local Government New Zealand Conference focused on the theme of ‘Transforming Communities’ and ran 21-23 July.

Keynote speaker Jonar Nader set down a challenge to the 600 delegates about the “enemy within”, tackling the subject of organisational culture in a provocative address entitled, “How not to lose friends and infuriate ratepayers”. If a culture is broken and staff disengaged, Nadar reasoned, no amount of technology, advertising or public relations will make up for it.

Senior technology and communications specialist Geoff Lawrie provided some contrast with discussion on the creation of urban environments, which he refers to as ‘Smart and Connected Communities’ - a new way of thinking about how communities can be created to achieve social and environmental sustainability and engagement.

Former Brisbane City Council CEO Jude Munro challenged delegates not to limit themselves to a local perspective, but to explore the regional, national and global perspective and to “think big”.  Whereas Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director of think tank ‘The New Zealand Initiative’, countered with how the values of a local approach will win out after decades of centralism. 

Concurrent conference sessions allowed practitioners to grapple with significant topics with TV3’s Guyon Espiner chairing a panel exploring whether bigger was necessarily better and if more could be done with less. Another session evaluated lessons of the creation of the Auckland super city, with contributions from Mayor Len Brown and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

Some of these themes continued in the EDANZ National Forum on Economic Development (23-25 July) with a joint EDANZ/LGNZ opening and closing function.

Hot topics for EDANZ this year included Maori economic development, with a presentation by Ngahiwi Tomoana, Chair of the Maori Economic Development task force and ‘Building our Innovation Ecosystem -  a city of 4 Million’, by Shaun Hendy, Professor of Computational Physics at MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology at Victoria University of Wellington.

Education topics received a thorough workout at EDANZ with ‘Education to Employment - economic development as the connector’, was one of several important panel discussions, featuring leading minds Jay Lamburn, COO of Careers NZ, Paul Kennedy, past CEO of Student Job Search and Mayor Dale Williams, Chairman of the Mayor’s Taskforce

A large number of local case studies and round table discussions with senior government officials and guided tours allowed delegates to see how Hamilton is responding to the demands of a growing population.

Hamilton City Council’s Events & Economic Development General Manager Sean Murray was delighted to have so many influential and high-powered speakers in the Waikato for the week.

“These two conferences are very significant on a national level. We’re particularly pleased to be able to host delegates in the Waikato and to show them why this region is now ranked third as a conference destination in New Zealand according to the latest Convention Activity Survey (CAS) data, recently released by the Ministry of Economic Development,” said Murray.

“We are also delighted to be able to show off our impressive Claudelands Conference and Exhibition Centre.

“Claudelands’ opening two years ago is an example of the transforming impact of local government investment in events, conferencing and exhibition facilities. Claudelands has significantly expanded Hamilton’s entertainment and conference options and is providing important economic and cultural benefits to the city,” Murray said.