Source: Holly Bennett, HSB
Holly Bennett, owner of government relations firm, HSB and training organisation, Engage, is calling on her peers to step out of the shadows and welcome a review of the lobbying sector in New Zealand.
“Each time the conversation comes up about the “dark arts” of lobbying, participants coyly say: ‘nothing to see here’. I say, if there really is nothing to see, why wouldn’t the sector welcome a review? They say sunlight is the best disinfectant and I think it’s high time for the government relations industry to step into the sun,” says Holly (Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Pikiao).
Some political parties want the government relations sector to be regulated. Holly agrees that more transparency is required, and most importantly, that more education and training about lobbying will bring the power of effective government relations to the people.
“There are currently very few ways to encourage new lobbyists into our sector, it is a bit of a closed door and has an ‘old school’ feel,” says Holly.
“That is why I set up Engage, New Zealand’s first and only government relations education and training organisation. We need to demystify lobbying, educate New Zealanders to become their own best advocates, and grow government relations expertise within New Zealand from the ground up.
“There is a lack of pathways into the industry, and a very real need for more competition in the sector. We need more people – whether that be young people, rangatahi, or those retraining, to see government relations as a legitimate career pathway. I know my generation can, they just need to be shown a pathway into it.”
Holly, who is of Te Arawa (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Pikiao) descent, has worked at the Beehive as a Ministerial Advisor and in-house legal counsel, as well as in government departments.
She has a law degree from the University of Auckland, and was admitted to the bar in 2013. Prior to launching Engage, Holly setup HSB, a government relations agency helping a range of NGOs, iwi and private sector clients improve their engagement with government.
Engage has launched with six offerings, catering to a range of experience and understanding. The one hour, GR Taster course is ideal for small business professionals, while the eight week, LOBBYMAX training offers one-on-one training to develop in-house executive or governance-level advocacy skills – or even to those professionals looking to set up shop.
Engage also offers New Zealand’s first educational course on effective advocacy – the Government Relations Nanodegree. As the only one of its kind in the country, the Government Relations Nanodegree creates an industry minimum education standard for New Zealand’s government relations industry.