The following is a glimpse into the history of the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce, providing insights into the changing face of business and how the Chamber has strived to support businesses and enable a business-friendly operating environment for over a century.

There is evidence that the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce was established further back in 1878, and revived in 1906. In 1921 the Chamber became an incorporated society.

The Chamber is a non-political and independent body working in the best interests of business in the community and nationwide through partner Chambers of Commerce across New Zealand and globally.

Services have varied considerably over the years retaining a focus on encouraging and promoting commerce, promoting and fostering international trade, supporting businesses and industries within South Canterbury and developing networking and collaboration.

In 1934 the Chamber identified the need for a publicity campaign for Timaru and £350 pounds was spent on an advertising campaign within New Zealand and overseas, which boosted membership and helped attract the Chambers of New Zealand conference to Timaru in 1937.


During the 1980s the harsh economic times were a matter of concern to the Chamber as were issues such as patronage of Timaru Airport, the roading plan for State Highway 1, support for the Young Enterprise Plan, the Opuha Irrigation Scheme, and the siting of finance houses in Stafford Street.

In 1991 the Chamber instigated an increase in networking events and the Business After 5’s established at that time still provide a strong platform for connection and collaboration. At this time, the Export Institute and the Manufacturers Association asked to join, resulting in a new organisation in 1992, the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce and Industry was formed under a new constitution to incorporate all three bodies. In 1998 the Aoraki Development Trust took over the secretarial duties of the Chamber.


In 2016 this relationship ended as a separation of operations was sought by the Timaru District Council. Membership numbers and engagement rose to an all-time high in 2016 with a strong training provision, the delivery of government funded grants and services, and a wide portfolio of events and advocacy.

Throughout the difficult Covid-19 period (2020 – 2021) the Chamber was the official government service agency for businesses, and through effective nationwide lobbying was jointly responsible for bringing over $16m dollars of funding into South Canterbury for businesses.

With 520+ Chamber Member businesses plus thousands of staff able to connect and collaborate, the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce’s role is recognised as a fundamental and essential service. The Chamber remains vibrant and continues to evolve, with many younger or new-to-business members having driven proactive new training and events such as Youth membership, Women’s Business Network, Business Excellence Awards, Empowering Women and Innovate sustainability conferences, and much more.