Hans Hietbrink, last mayor of the Guyra Shire council, has been elected president of the Guyra and District Chamber of Commerce for the 2018-19 financial year – and he is determined to improve the town’s economy.
“I will harness the energy of the people of Guyra as best I can to develop Guyra,” Mr Hietbrink promised.
Locals have expressed concern about high street shops closing, and the Commonwealth Bank leaving town.
“That’s really what the Chamber of Commerce will address,” Mr Hietbrink said. “One of the roles that the Chamber can play is to try and attract other businesses to town. I see that as the main priority of the Chamber in the next 12 months.”
The Chamber of Commerce was formed in 2011 to make the town “a vibrant, thriving, and prosperous business community”. It provides advocacy, development, and networking opportunities to the district’s business community to support sustainable growth and make it easier to do business.
Mr Hietbrink succeeds Aileen MacDonald, and brings substantial political, business, and administrative experience to the position.
He was mayor from 2008 to 2016, before the shire’s amalgamation with Armidale. He is president of the Guyra RSL sub-branch and the Rotary Club of Guyra, and has been the Chamber’s vice-president and development officer since September 2016.
He chaired the Border Rivers – Gwydir Catchment Management Authority, and is the chair of the Northern Tablelands Local Land Services Board.
Before moving to Guyra, he designed and facilitated development programs for companies, government bodies, and industry associations in Australia and overseas.
Mr Hietbrink was on the committee that developed the Chamber’s five-year strategic plan for 2017 to 2022.
“We can expect continuity,” Mr Hietbrink said – not radical change. “The strategic objectives we have in that plan are designed to see us over those five years and beyond.”
The Chamber protects and promotes the interests of businesses in the district, and recruits new industry to the region, such as the projected abbatoir. It promotes its tourism potential, such as regenerating the Mother of Ducks Lagoon, or developing the rail trail. It participates in and auspices local events and functions, such as Passion on Platform in September, TroutFest in October, and the Lamb and Potato Festival in January.
"Our role as a chamber is to promote the activities that we have within our area,” Mr Hietbrink said. “But at the moment, of course, we are focusing much more on building businesses or attracting businesses, and we see tourism as part of the broader region.”
Guyra’s economy, Mr Hietbrink says, is static.
“I don’t think it’s positive, and I don’t think it’s necessarily negative. There’s a feeling that not much is happening in Guyra at present, and we’re all looking forward to the main street upgrade. Once that’s done, we’ll know how we can move forward.”