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Wanaka Airport operations manager Jo Learmonth is the new chairwoman of Ignite Wanaka Chamber of Commerce, replacing Andrew (Howie) Howard, who has chosen to step down as chairman.

Mr Howard, chairman since January 2021, remains on the board alongside Celia Crosbie (vice-chairwoman), Claire Dooney, Laura Hedley, John Mezger and Bronwyn McCarthy. Queenstown Lakes District councillor and deputy mayor Calum MacLeod is ex-officio.

“Due to my other commitments I have not been able to devote the time and energy that our business community expects and deserves,” Mr Howard said in a media release.

“I am still really excited about being a part of this great team and working to support Jo. I have no doubt she is the right person at the right time for us.”

Ms Learmonth has worked in public and private enterprises. She specialises in business performance at small and medium enterprise level, as well as with start-ups and corporate project management.

“Howie has served the chamber tirelessly as chair and, on behalf of the board, I would like to thank him for his leadership and dedication to the Wanaka business community over the past 15 months. We are delighted that he will still be involved at the board table,” Ms Learmonth said.

“The Wanaka business community has endured a difficult two years with the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant economic crisis that we continue to navigate. This year will remain challenging for our local businesses. The chamber board is determined to support businesses in the Upper Clutha and advocate on their behalf to help enable the sustainable success of our local economy.”

The board is seeking a new general manager, after Naomi Lindsay resigned.