Holly Suzanne Bennett – Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Pikiao
It took just one conversation to change the trajectory of my life.
“Why don’t you turn that into a business?” – Pāpa
“That’s weird.” – Tamāhine
“It’s weird that you think that’s weird.” – Pāpa
And just like that a government relations firm was founded.
HSB (which stands for Holly Suzanne Bennett) was borne from a desire to change the way we perceive and access government relations in Aotearoa. Long seen as a strategic tool accessible only to those with deep pockets, I chose to establish my firm to ensure more New Zealanders could access meaningful and affordable government relations advice.
We exist to make political engagement simple for others. We match domestic and overseas businesses with all levels of New Zealand’s political ecosystem: Members of Parliament, Ministers, advisors, officials, regulators and everyone in between. Proudly based in Waikato, we represent clients across the length and breadth of Aotearoa. We are also non-partisan, meaning we maintain relationships and facilitate access with all political parties.
“Kia tātai pūmanawa ki te ora”
HSB binds (tātai) different talents (pūmanawa) together for the wellbeing of everyone involved (ora). By acting as the central force that joins these people together, HSB brings social and economic good to all who choose to engage.
Purpose is at the core of everything HSB does. I feel extremely privileged to be able to lead a firm that assists clients and kaupapa with meaning. Top of mind is the pride to serve my iwi, Te Arawa. It was Taa Toby Curtis and Karen Vercoe who took an unbelievable leap of faith in me, hiring my firm with no track record. They believed that our people are all we need to help ourselves. I am extremely humbled to be able to assist my people doing what I love.
I would challenge all iwi to consider how they are managing their government relations. It is unusual for iwi to use lobbyists; it should be usual. Resting these relationships at the feet of one or two individuals is not strategic, nor fair. Relationships require an equal amount of effort from both parties: government relations is a chance to invest proactively not reactively.
In just under two years I have grown my business into a leading government relations innovation shop: constantly hunting for new ways to democratise information and improve knowledge sharing for the empowerment of our community.
But it is the changes I have coming in 2020 for which I am most excited. With the support of Poutama Trust, I have my eyes firmly set on building the capability in my industry.
People don’t think of the kupu “lobbyist” and “Māori” together, however I believe it is important young Māori see other young Māori leading across a range of spaces. Aotearoa’s new generation of government relations professionals are coming. I may be the youngest owner of an independently established government relations firm in the country now, but if I achieve what I’m setting out to do next, it won’t be for long.
For more information check out the website – www.hsbgovernmentrelations.nz.