Our History

The earliest mention of the Whakatāne Chamber of Commerce refers to 1913. William Sullivan and Sidney Shapley were founding members.

Born in Inglewood in 1891, William Sullivan set up as a builder in Whakatane in 1913. Military service called him to Trentham Military Camp where he rose to the rank of Sergeant Major – experience that probably served him well in the years to come – and once back in Whakatane he became a driving force in the growing region. He was chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce, chaired the Harbour Board, and served as Mayor from 1925 to 1938. He was also involved in the volunteer fire brigade and was a founding member of the Whakatane Historical Society.

The Whakatane Chamber of Commerce became an incorporated society on 27 May 1941 and remained in place until 26 January 1993. It’s headquarters started at Boon & Sullivan Builders premises, 41 Commerce Street, now the home of Farmlands.

The Eastern Bay of Plenty Chamber of Commerce began in the early 1990’s and became an Incorporated Society under the presidency of Peter Patterson in July 1995.  The society covers the three local body districts of Opotiki, Whakatane and Kawerau.

When Peter retired in March 1995, Graeme Steenson filled the position for two years, followed by Nelson Rangi, Helen Stewart, Bronwen Foxx and then Gerard Casey, who took over as Chamber President in July 2008.

In 2009 Gerard Casey was appointed CEO as there has been an increased need for a widening to the role of the Executive Officer, with more project-based responsibilities and high level of Membership interactions.

Gerard stepped down in 2019, and the Board looking to refresh the Chamber, hired Crete Wana. The Chamber has continued to grow its membership under the guidance of subsequent General Managers, Lucy Devany and Jenna Gray. Under their leadership, the Chamber put an increased focus on Women in Business and the Ladder, a group of up-and-coming young professionals. Both groups have seen increased involvement during their tenures.

In June 2022, Andrew Watson joined the Chamber as General Manager and is looking to expand on the great work of his predecessors.

The Chamber Board has spent considerable time and energy determining the best strategy for delivering value to its members, meeting our current and future commitments, and ensuring that we are lobbying Local, Regional and Central Government on issues that are facing businesses in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

We remain committed to our purpose which is to "Connect local businesses with the support, advocacy, and opportunities they need to thrive."