Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce and Tourism President, Mathew Hatcher, has called the five Chambers of Commerce from across the shire to a round table meeting in Moruya to consolidate a joint approach to any hurdles, and opportunities, that they may collectively encounter in 2021 as the region continues to make its way through bushfire and Covid recovery. No doubt today's meeting of the combined Shire's Chambers of Commerce saw some robust conversations and the tabling of several across-the-board ideas set to strengthen each of the chambers and the business sector as a whole.
Above: Five Chamber of Commerce presidents. L to R Tim Dalrymple of Moruya, Dr Jenny Munro of Narooma, Mathew Hatcher of Batemans Bay, Susan Gray of Tilba and Richard Adams of Mogo. The last time the Chambers came together was soon after the last local government elections where the new councillors were invited to attend a round table meeting to meet Chamber members from the five Shirewide Chambers of Batemans Bay, Mogo, Moruya, Narooma and Tilba. The intention had been to have a robust, open discussion with the councillors advised of the many hurdles that local businesses were experiencing under the constraints set by Council. The Chambers had been at loggerheads with the Council for some time and had become frustrated by Council's inaction, lack of communication and distinct lack of any vision that recognised the private sector and their need to prosper in order to employ and provide the core business representation in a tourism driven region. Disappointingly that first meeting was gatecrashed by senior council staff that then limited any open and honest concern or frustration being voiced. This time however the Chambers will be looking forward to taking their concerns and ideas to Council, keen to meet candidates in the upcoming election and to work with newly elected Councillors. Bay Chamber President, Mathew Hatcher, said "The primary focus of the meeting will be to address the return to a pre-covid local economy, to recognise what we can do to support each other and to identify any hurdles that might be in place. We have an agenda to work through that will hopefully provide us with a way forward." Recognising that 2021 is a local government election year the Chambers are well aware that the timing is favourable to lobby and advocate for their members and their community. While this might be done for local projects there is also the opportunity to lobby as a collective in regards to Council policies such as outdoor eating, mobile pop-up food and vendor guidelines, provision of tourism infrastructure, civic maintenance and continued representation to reflect their towns on Council's Tourism website. Each and all of these policies are reviewed as the first task of any incoming Council and to be proactively engaged in the policies as they stand and how they can be improved is one of the key functions that Chambers might embrace over the coming months. In light of Council permanently closing the Batemans Bay Visitor Centre at the end of February 2021 the Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce and Tourism has proactively stepped in to create its own visitor website and social media feed. This website is in continual development and is set to embrace the wider region of Batemans Bay including Mogo. Further south the Moruya Chamber is working on their website whilst Narooma and Tilba have a strong web and social media presence that promotes their region, attractions and local businesses.