ATTENTION: News & Business editors                17 June 20025



Driving force at Christchurch Convention Centre changes direction


Cathy Hemsworth steps down as Director Sales & Marketing for venue manager NCC (NZ) Ltd on 30 June, after six years actively selling the Christchurch Convention Centre, Westpac Centre and Christchurch Town Hall to the national and international meetings and events industries. For most of that time the Convention Centre was the only international purpose-built conference venue in New Zealand, and it was at the forefront of the fledgling business tourism industry.


Cathy Hemsworth has become a shareholder/director of The Conference Company, and she will open an office in Christchurch later in the year.


"From an industry perspective, the highlights for me have involved industry recognition of our wonderful facilities here in Christchurch. Hosting MEETINGS 2004 in Christchurch was a real highlight because it represented an incredible new opportunity for South Island businesses to showcase their goods and services to the international meetings industry. I chaired the Host Organising Committee and we spent many years working to bring this event south. Now it is a repeat event in 2006."


"Hosting TRENZ is another highlight, as was the 2001 International Union of Physiological Sciences, at the time the biggest conference of its type ever to have been held in New Zealand with 2500 delegates from 70 countries. And in their own way, just as special, have been all the smaller clients who have been delighted with their event, and found it more than they had hoped for – getting that WOW factor is always a highlight."


Cathy said she’s learned that venue mangers have to think outside the square, to become more and more innovative because the demands and expectations of clients have grown with the industry. "I've learnt that we must never say never – anything is possible! We've created indoor ponds, beaches, had fireworks, bungy jumping, and created all sorts of small unique worlds for events. For one cosmetic product launch there were 10,000 fresh flowers in beautiful arches and displays, all in the colours of the product palette."


Alongside the growth in events, and there have been more than 10,000 held at the three venues during the last six years, there has been a growing number of small companies providing specialist sound, audio-visual, signage, staging and other technical goods and services, and creative and professional services, such as theming. 


Cathy Hemsworth said that passion and innovation rather than big budgets had driven the national marketing drive for New Zealand as a meetings destination. Conventions Incentives New Zealand (of which she is a Board member) was a strong advocate and promoted at all the major international trade shows. A recently-established Inter Agency Events Group (IAEG) now had a useful pool of money to promote and encourage real business.


"We've done really well compared with the Australian states that enjoy strong political support and major state funding but with the emerging popularity of new destinations such as Vietnam and Thailand we will have to lift our efforts to maintain and grow our market share."


Cathy Hemsworth said it was vital that local government kept up with the growth in business tourism, especially in the provision of airport services, promotions and accommodation.


Westpac Centre - still a thrill


Cathy Hemsworth's association with the Westpac Centre began well before the building was opened in September 1998. She was sponsorship manager for Westpac Bank and was part of the management team that negotiated the naming right to the building, at the time the largest indoor arena in New Zealand with a seating capacity of 8888 people.


Then with her role at NCC (NZ) Ltd Cathy was involved with securing world class entertainment acts to perform there.


"It's still a thrill every time we have great event there, and the place is filled with people and there's such a buzz. It's what the building was designed for and I've seen develop from the plan drawings. I have a real sense of involvement with the arena and nothing will ever change that. I've just very proud of what it had brought to Christchurch, and the chance for people to see great entertainment right here."




Contact Cathy on (until 25 June) and there after on or or 0


Jpeg images of Cathy, the venues and events are available on request to