New food role could be double up

By Andrew Austin

1 comment

The decision by Business Hawke's Bay to create a role of food industry facilitator when there is already an organisation called Food Hawke's Bay seems to be unnecessary duplication.

Business Hawke's Bay (BHB), which has had mixed press recently, this week appointed Hawke's Bay Winegrowers executive officer Lyn Bevin to the new role.

When Business Hawke's Bay advertised the position at the end of October, Hawke's Bay Today asked its business development manager, Michaela Vodanovich, if this role would duplicate what Food Hawke's Bay was doing. She said this would not happen and the new person would enhance Food Hawke's Bay's work.

Even Jane Libby, general manager of Food Hawke's Bay, at the time played down any worry about duplication. However, comments she made at the time about having to sort out how her organisation would work with the new food facilitator gave a hint that all was not right.

It now turns out Food Hawke's Bay, understandably, wanted the role for themselves.

This did not happen and the appointment of Ms Bevin spurred Food Hawke's Bay into action.

The organisation's chairman, John McHardy, used its annual Christmas drinks in Hastings this week as an opportunity to make a statement expressing their extreme shock and disappointment at the appointment.

He said the new role would have been best placed within the organisation to stop a double-up on services and to prevent confusion for food businesses on where to go for support.

It does seem rather odd that a new role would be created to develop and promote food companies in the region when there is already an entire organisation totally focused on the food industry.

I am sure BHB will argue that the role would be more commercial and different from what Food Hawke's Bay does, but that would be missing the point. The starting point of this conversation should have been for BHB to encourage and support Food Hawke's Bay to create such a position within their organisation or to broaden Mrs Libby's role to include that.

Mrs Libby has proven herself to be very good at what she does and she has an enviable network of people in the industry.

After BHB and the Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce's less-than-perfect handling of its appointment of a new CEO and the resignation of said CEO, Gavin Bush, a month later, one would think they would have steered away from another firestorm. The organisation was in the news for the right reasons earlier this month with the announcement that acclaimed business incubator The Icehouse Business Growth Centre's first satellite office would be in Hawke's Bay, but this latest situation has the potential to take the gloss off that achievement.

A province like ours needs all its industry players and lobby groups working together to achieve the same goals. BHB needs to get Food Hawke's Bay on its side, not alienate it.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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