110 + Years of the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce

The following is a glimpse into the past 100 years of the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It gives us some insight into the changing face of business and some of the personalities who have helped to mould both the Chamber and the community.

The Chamber is, and always has been, a non-political and independent body working in the best interests of business in the community and nationwide, if and when the need arises. In earlier days it was customary for the local post master, station master, and managers of the Harbour Board, Power Board, County Councils, and various industry associations to be prominent members of the Chamber. In fact as Maurice Smith found during his long relationship with the Chamber, both as Vice President and then Secretary for many years, it was customary for the post master or station master to phone and invite him to morning tea from time to time to keep up with what was happening on the business front.

Also the local member of parliament, then Sir Basil Arthur, regularly consulted with the Chamber to keep up-to-date with what was happening businesswise in his electorate and this gave local businesses an opportunity to lobby if and when necessary.

The first President in 1906 was J. P. Newman and he reappears in 1919 when he served for a further year. John Patterson Newman came from England to New Zealand in 1879. After a time in Christchurch and Invercargill where he was manager of Wright Stephenson & Co, he came to Timaru in 1899 to manage the Canterbury Farmers Co-operative Assn or CFCA. He was Vice President of the Timaru Rowing and Cycle Touring Clubs, Chairman of the Woolbrokers Assn, a keen follower of music, Member of the Timaru Harbour Board, a J.P., a Director & Chairman of Timaru Gas Co, SC Breweries, Evans Atlas Flour Mills, Farmers Co-operative Insurance and Director and Chairman of Westland Timber. He was followed by Moses White, manager of the NZ Loan & Mercantile Agency having been Secretary to the Timaru Landing Shipping Co. under F. Le Cren.

From 1910-1911 W. Priest took the helm having founded the firm Priest & Holdgate, ironmongers. Such names as D. C. Turnbull, the founder of D. C. Turnbull & Co, whose son Hugh and now grandson Andrew continue the business currently, was President 1912-1913.

The war years

During the period of the First World War, there were a succession of Presidents and one of these was M. J. Doyle, who came from Ireland to Australia in 1889 and came to Timaru with his family in 1892 and became General Manager of the Timaru Herald.

B. Foote who also served two terms as President during the 1920s- 1930’s was the founder of the present day Footes and was National President of the New Zealand Institute of Accountants.

Others during this period were M. White, W. Priest, G. S. Gray, K. G. Turner, F. Barkas, W. R. Pearson, E. G. Rawnsley, and W. G. Irwin .

In 1923 R. S. Forsythe, CMG, Manager of National Mortgage took over the Presidency. He was an interesting character who represented New Zealand on the Empire Marketing Board, London, was Imperial Adviser to the NZ Government at an Imperial Conference in Ottawa in 1932, was on the Imperial Economic Commission in London in 1933, and was President of the British Association for Refrigeration.

In 1921 the Chamber became an incorporated body and the list of Presidents during the next 10 years includes G. C. Curtis, F.C. May, P. B. Foote, R. B. Bell, B. L. Blodorn, W. I. Tait and F. S. Shrimpton, who began his working life as an office boy for D. C. Turnbull in 1894, worked his way up to manager and actually died while still in office.

T. Ritchie, President from 1932-1933 was Chairman of the Harbour Board. He graduated in mechanical science from Cambridge University and alongside his academic achievements played rugby for Scotland vs England and Ireland.

Publicity campaign for Timaru

In 1934 under the chairmanship of G. D. Virtue, a meeting was organised by the Progress & Publicity Committee of the Chamber and held in The Little Playhouse to discuss the need for a publicity campaign for Timaru. The publicity manager for NZ Railways addressed the meeting and praised Timaru and Caroline Bay as the finest watering place in the Dominion! It was decided to spend 350 pounds on an advertising campaign within New Zealand and overseas.

Another 10 years later and W. S. Minehan took the chair. He was the manager of the Canterbury Frozen Meat Company and apart from being married to the famous Rita, he became something of a local celebrity when he was robbed at gunpoint on the highway south of Timaru when delivering the payroll to the Pareora Freezing Works.

Many of the Presidents appear to have been either associated with stock firms, or local bodies or boards and one exception is Sam McClelland who was President from 1944-1945 and also 1947-49 and was a local menswear retailer.

R. Hervey, businessman and later mayor, was President from 1950-1952 and later a Life Member and his son Mark followed in 1979-1981. In

1954-1956 it was the turn of J. S. Satterthwaite, stockbroker, followed by N. H. Gould, Goulds Transport Company, E. W. D. Unwin, timber merchant and P. W. Young, an accountant.

During the period 1967 onwards, Presidents included M. A. Brownie, footwear retailer and councillor, I.A. Johnson , panel beating business who was made a Life Member, R. G. Blackham, real estate agency and councillor, J A Hogg, publican and auctioneer who was made a Life Member along with Maurice Smith , D. E. Potter, Hervey Motors, J. K. O’Donnell, plumbing business,and P. F. Lewis, aluminium manufacturer who was also responsible for organising and running the very successful iIndustries fairs.

Changes through the 80's, 90's and current years

During the 1980s the harsh economic times were a matter of concern to the Chamber and also 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.

Sid McAuley was President from 1987-1990 during a period when the re-establishing of a food processing industry in South Canterbury was of prime importance.

In 1991 Nigel Watt took the Chamber by the scruff of the neck and gave it something of a major shake up. He was General Manager of the Timaru Herald and together with Maurice Smith instigated the Business After 5’s which of course have gone from strength to strength in recent times. Also at this time, the Export Institute made approaches to the South Canterbury Chamber to amalgamate and while all this was taking place, the Manufacturers Association also asked if they could join, with the result that in 1992 a new organisation, the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce and Industry as it is known today, was formed under a new constitution to incorporate all three bodies.

Kevin Cosgrove continued the good work with the BA5’s as did Jimmy Wallace, Howard Smith, Roy Weaver, Terry Byrne, Steve Lyttle, Tony Howey, to the present president, John Cannell.

In 1998 the Aoraki Development Trust took over the secretarial duties of the Chamber and 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.