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The History of Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Cambridge is awash with history.

Most of it emanating from very good thoughts, causes or actions – military or otherwise. And the Chamber of Commerce has its own fair share of matters historical.

Cambridge is awash with history – most of it emanating from very good thoughts, causes or actions – military or otherwise. And the Chamber of Commerce has its own fair share of matters historical.

A group of like-minded townspeople met to discuss the possible formation of a Chamber of Commerce. At that time they had a few commercial 'hot potatoes' including railway arrangements, technical education, the postal service and 'other matters that may not be within the province of the Cambridge Borough Council'. Reading between the lines there seemed to be a general dis-satisfaction with the Council's behaviour and so, after studying two quite different Chamber Constitutions (Auckland and Carterton), they adopted the latter and formally moved the foundation of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce. One of the names of the founding Executive was Mr E Souter – a name that is still well preserved in the town's commercial life today.

Portfolio of Interests

By 1907 they had embraced their portfolio of interests to include telephones, the new Post Office and a higher quantum of government subsidy for the new (High) bridge. They won on several points (including the Post Office clock tower) but were firmly put back in their place when some Wellington based bureaucrat penned them a missive which advised that 'Cambridge train services were amply sufficient to meet the requirements'.

By 1910 Cambridge has a fight on its hands with Auckland when a number of medical practitioners there advised publicly that the 7 mile distant Sanitarium caused 'Cambridge to be simply a dumping ground for the incurables'. The Chamber sent an appropriate strong message to persuade these medical experts to desist from their utterances.

It is clear that world wars do not, of themselves, cause trade to cease (often the opposite) and in 1918 a new Secretary was employed for the princely annual salary of 8 Guineas. Six years later the Chamber discussed going into partnership with the local Businessmen's' Association but it was many years before this marriage was to be consummated. At the same time the Secretary was censured for his lack of attention to Chamber matters both in calling meetings and collecting fees (which had now risen to 1 Guinea). The Chamber was still beating the drum about railway facilities mostly to no real avail. Rail was King – provided that all arrangements were on the side of the rail owner.

Time and the Town moved on. In 1968 Chairman C Pelosi was pushing the cause to restrict increases to bank charges and the new (almost) infamous by-pass was discussed – including how this would influence the future placing of industrial sites. 38 years later recent (2006) re-zoning of Agricultural land to Industrial out beyond Hautapu underpins the far-seeing clarity of the 1968 Chamber executive.

But in 1976 the paucity of attendances at meetings caused the Chamber to go into recess – 71 years after the foundation. Despite the very obvious commercial opportunities coming up from the World Rowing Championships only 2 years ahead.

No Chamber for 12 Years

And so Cambridge ran without a Chamber of Commerce for 12 years until a meeting addressed by the President of the New Zealand Chambers (Sir Alan Hellaby) strongly recommended that the Cambridge Chamber be re-awakened. Which it did - driven by Patron Patrick Hogan and new President Jack Shannon. Two men with a host of Cambridge commercial knowledge under their belts. Two months later a successful seminar kick-started the new process and the Chamber was well on the way again.

Time to Re-start

All that still applies today. In the period 2004-2006 the Chamber's executive spent a great deal of time and effort bringing the Chamber into the modern era with a formal Constitution, Vision and Mission and a new set of operating rules to ensure that everyone understands the role, objectives and capabilities of an active Chamber of Commerce. In the 1988 speech mentioned above it was also stated 'we must set our sights higher, take advantage of our natural beauty and location, build now for the future. That is why we believe that a Chamber of Commerce is the ideal vehicle to bring together the various businesses of Cambridge to a united body capable of providing leadership and innovation'.

Today Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is a thriving organisation with over 300 member businesses. The Chamber remains a powerful voice for the Cambridge business community, actively engaged in advocacy and representation locally, regionally and nationally. An accredited member of the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and Industry (NZCCI), we are one of 29 Chambers of Commerce in New Zealand which support over 22 000 members. As a not for profit membership association, the Cambridge Chamber continues to support and encourage sustainable, profitable business growth.

Life Members.

Cambridge Business Chamber has eight "Life Members":
Sir Patrick Hogan (since 2002) Barbara Taranaki (since 2002), Rosalie Lunson, and Peter Carr (since 2013), Laureen Allen (since 2014), Lesley Nielsen (Since 2019) LesleyAnn Thomas (Since 2021) Karen May (since 2022) Antanas Procuta (since 2024) 

Life membership is given in recognition of outstanding contribution to the Chamber and Cambridge business community.


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