Tauranga Chamber of Commerce is planning to reconfigure the categories in this year's Westpac Tauranga Business Awards to better reflect the contribution of small businesses to the area.

The move is part of the chamber's Small Business Tauranga initiative, launched in February. The initiative aimed to raise awareness of the crucial role played by smaller businesses in the region and to increase their participation in the chamber.

"One of the key things that will bring this home is that we are re-vamping the business awards," said chamber chief executive Stan Gregec, who was interviewed at a Small Business Tauranga breakfast networking event at YOU Travel Bethlehem, which recently rebranded from United Travel.

"This year the awards will be heavily slanted in support of small business."


The awards - now in their 19th year - have become Tauranga's key annual business event, drawing a crowd of 430 in 2015. Last year's awards had winners in 12 categories across a range of sectors, but only one of the awards was specifically aimed at the small business sector.

However, the winners of at least three of the awards fell into the small business category. Details of the new awards structure are still being finalised.

"We are now going to have categories in sectors both smaller businesses and larger ones," said Mr Gregec, adding that there would be an overall winner as in the past.

"There's some fantastic small businesses here in Tauranga. We want to profile them in the community. It's all about putting a name to the face of the small business owners of Tauranga."

Steven Farrant, who chairs the chamber's new Small Business Tauranga network, said he welcomed the new focus for the business awards.

Noting there was no reflection on the successful running of the awards in the past, he said the business market had been changing significantly.

"The market is changing, the number of businesses moving to the area has increased and the types of business have become more diverse. I think the awards needed to take stock of that."

Mr Farrant, who manages Keith Hay Homes Bay of Plenty, said he was involved in early meetings to discuss the options for change and said he took the view that the awards did not do enough to celebrate the achievements of small businesses.


"Also some of the categories possibly weren't relevant enough for small businesses and there just weren't enough opportunities for them to enter and really succeed in winning awards," he said.

In some cases, small businesses could find themselves up against much bigger corporates with more resources to deploy, both to their business and to managing the award process, he said.

"I don't know the details but I'm aware there are going to be more chances for small businesses to enter in different categories and I wholeheartedly support that."

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs):

* 1 in 3 NZ workers are employed in a small business.

* SMEs make up about 97 per cent of businesses in NZ.