Magazine article New Zealand Management

Face to Face: Kim Campbell Business in the DNA; from Auckland's Unitary Plan, to Transport, Working Capital, Energy Pricing and Water, EMA Chief Executive Kim Campbell Harnesses His Forensic Interest in Business to Advocate for Positive Policies for New Zealand Organisations. He Talks with Ruth le Pla

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Face to Face: Kim Campbell Business in the DNA; from Auckland's Unitary Plan, to Transport, Working Capital, Energy Pricing and Water, EMA Chief Executive Kim Campbell Harnesses His Forensic Interest in Business to Advocate for Positive Policies for New Zealand Organisations. He Talks with Ruth le Pla

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Le Pla

The EMA's Kim Campbell is immensely amused by comparisons with that other Kim Campbell, Canada's first-ever female prime minister, who was once famously described as "a tart-tongued, unapologetically determined, razor-sharp intellectual".

"Oh God, I'd hate to be called an intellectual," he laughs. "That would be absolutely inappropriate."

All of which is interesting because 'our' Kim Campbell relishes nothing more than sharing the results of a good poke through dense policy reports to debunk the gobbledegook and dig out the useful bits for business.

He's packed in a solid learn-as-you-go career in manufacturing and exporting, and worked in Australia and more recently the Philippines, before taking on his current role as CEO of the Employers & Manufacturers Association (EMA) just over one and a half years ago.

Pushed to distinguish himself from his Canadian namesake, Campbell says he'd like to think he can bring intellectual rigour to discussions, accepts he can be "unapologetically determined" and rejects the "tart-tongued" tag. "I think I'm a bit of a pussy cat, actually, but I am direct."

Campbell's love of straightforward language serves him well in his advocacy role for the EMA's 8000 member organisations. His rolling list of "the important things that are happening in the community" includes pretty much most business-related topics pushed out by Wellington's, and Auckland's, policy wonks and being chewed over in the media at any given time.

He says it helps that he's not shy about standing up on his hind legs and delivering an occasional speech or two. "It's all about putting a face on what the organisation is trying to accomplish." He usually makes five or so presentations a week. He's already made two the day we talk.

"At the moment, we're trying to get transport going in Auckland," he says. "We're dealing with the unitary plan and housing issues. We're concerned about working capital for business. We've got a big workstream on energy because New Zealand's energy policy is in disarray."

Then there's the huge issue of water and wastewater pricing, funding of infrastructure, labour laws, and the IRD's "nutty" and since-dropped suggestion that work car parks, mobile phones and laptops should be taxed. "We circulated that one to a wide number of people who, once they realised what the issues were, saw it was nutty," he says. "That became self-evident in Wellington too and we were able to make a difference."

He favours collaborative approaches, partnering with other organisations as their views align. Teaming up with the unions against taxes on car parks was, he says, a "risky strategy... I know from [Unite Union national secretary] Matt McCarten's viewpoint it certainly was".

Such unlikely bedfellows are now working together against unscrupulous employers' mistreatment of immigrant workers. "These are dreadful stories... this woman paid $27,000 to buy a job, got sacked, got no compensation, the employer got fined $10,000. It's appalling."

Campbell says he could see from a very early age how interaction between industry and government could make a difference to the work environment. Right from the beginning of his career he'd been involved in the Export Institute and the Manufacturers Association. He'd served on the EMA's board before heading off overseas. "I'd been active in business politics and knew what this place could do."

So when he took over as the EMA's chief executive, Campbell said he felt some of his experiences in the pharmaceutical sector, manufacturing, distribution and export business might prove useful. Rather than approach the job from a political point of view, he layers on a business development viewpoint.

"I look at what goes on in the business environment very much as a business person would," he says. "I want to know if something is going to work. …

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