The South Waikato Investment Fund Trust (SWIFT) has appointed a new chief executive saying it wants to focus on supporting communities and businesses in the region to manage the impact of the pandemic and rapidly increasing inflation.

The trust has appointed Tīrau local Amanda Hema as its new chief executive to replace its former chief executive Francis Pauwels.

It said Hema brings extensive community experience and networks to SWIFT.

Hema has worked as a consultant for the last six years, following a decade with the South Waikato District Council as its General Manager for Community Services.

Prior to this, she was the chief executive of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, and Strategic Projects Manager for the South Waikato Economic Development Trust.

SWIFT chairperson Bruce Sherman said her connections with the South Waikato district, and experience in local government made her the ideal person to lead SWIFT’s strategy of focusing on connecting businesses with regional service providers, building business resilience, and ensuring great outcomes for our community.

“In the last five years more than 75 additional businesses have set up in the district, 566 more people are in work and 1700 more people are calling the South Waikato home,” Sherman said.

SWIFT has also helped build economic development within the district with funding support for businesses and key projects of more than $16 million.

“The trust has overseen this period of rapid growth with the support of Francis Pauwels, and we’re grateful for his contribution in recent years, and wish him well for his future endeavours,” Sherman said.

Sherman and the SWIFT board recognise that after a period of expansion it is time to double down on existing investment, and support businesses in the community by leveraging the trust’s networks and connecting them with local service providers.

“Business attraction never goes away, but in the current environment the most important contribution we can make is to ensure our existing businesses thrive in the face of significant economic headwinds.”

SWIFT has also created two new community-based roles – Operations Manager and Community Liaison Coordinator.

Hema said businesses and start-ups in the South Waikato need more than just seed funding.

“They need passionate, long-term support from SWIFT and local support services to help them achieve their goals in the face of the concentrated headwinds of Covid-19, supply chain issues and inflationary pressures.”

Hema said with that in mind they have appointed Shannon Double as Operations Manager and Anita Goodman as Community Liaison Coordinator.

Double has lived in the South Waikato for more than 25 years, and Goodman has held Hamilton-based roles with Transpower, Fonterra and the Hamilton City Council.