Port of Tauranga CEO Mark Cairns to retire

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns. Photo / George Novak
Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns. Photo / George Novak

By: Andrea FoxHerald business writerandrea.fox@nzme.co.nz

Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns will retire in June next year.

He will be succeeded by the listed company’s chief operating officer Leonard Sampson.

Cairns, 58, will step aside after more than 15 years heading New Zealand’s largest port, during which time its market capitalisation increased more than seven times, by $4.4 billion, to $5.1b today.

Chairman David Pilkington said under Cairns’ leadership, the port company had grown from a regional bulk export port to New Zealand’s international cargo hub and one of its most successful listed companies.

During his time in the job the average compounding total shareholder return had been 19 per cent per year.

When Cairns became chief executive in 2005, the port handled 12.6 million tonnes of cargo and 438,214 containers a year.

In the year to June this year, those tallies had swelled to 24.8m tonnes of cargo and 1.25m containers.

Cairns said the next stage of his career would be in governance.

Craigs Investment Partners head of private wealth research Mark Lister said he was confident Cairns would be in demand as a director.

“Mark has done a great job, and under his command Port of Tauranga has grown significantly, been an industry leader across the board, and delivered excellent returns to shareholders.

“He will be missed, and as is the case whenever a strong CEO chooses to hang up their boots, the focus will be on the company to see if it can continue to deliver in his absence.

“It will certainly be the end of an era, but Mark is still fairly young and enthusiastic, as well as being very capable, so I’m sure he will have no shortage of offers on the governance front,” Lister said.
Jarden managing director, head of research Arie Dekker said Cairns oversaw a period in which investors had seen material capital appreciation.

“The strategy and execution under Mark’s leadership has seen Port of Tauranga materially outpace its competitors.

“Highlights include strategic investments into MetroPort and Timaru and the Kotahi deal – these have helped underpin Tauranga as New Zealand’s leading port.”

Chief executive-designate Sampson was appointed chief operating officer a year ago after six years as the port’s commercial manager. Previously he was general manager sales at KiwiRail.

Pilkington said the company’s success had delivered wide-ranging benefits to the Bay of Plenty region. Local ratepayers own just over half of Port of Tauranga’s shares through regional council entity Quayside Holdings.

A highlight of Cairns’ time as chief executive is considered to be the port’s ambitious play to become the only New Zealand port able to accommodate the world’s biggest cargo ships. This was via a six-year, $350m capital expansion programme intended to cement its future as the country’s premier freight gateway and hub and feeder port.

In an interview with the Herald in 2018, Cairns recalled the analysis had been gruelling and the commercial risk high.

“For a company of our size with a $2.5 billion market cap at the time, to embark on a $350 million capital expansion programme was a big commercial risk.

“We had to back ourselves to attract that cargo. It was a lot of money and the board put a lot of commercial tension around it.”

In late 2016, following dredging to deepen and widen the port’s shipping channels, major landside operational change to handle the anticipated big increase in cargo, and the securing of long term customer contracts to drive container volumes, the first of the big ships tied up at Tauranga – the only port able to accommodate them on international services.

The strategy paid off. In the 2019 financial year the port company cracked $100 million profit for the first time.

Napier-born Cairns, who has a civil engineering degree with first class honours and master of management and business studies degrees, was previously chief executive at Toll Owens and at Owens Cargo.

“The time feels right to hand over to the next generation to continue the Port of Tauranga’s success into the future,” he said.

“Port of Tauranga is in excellent shape. I’m incredibly proud of our people and the positive outcomes we have achieved for our customers and our community.”

KiwiRail wants its ferry terminal in the central city, without its competitor

September 3, 2020 – Report from RNZ by Catherine Hutton


Plans to build a multi-use ferry terminal in Wellington are in jeopardy, following KiwiRail’s insistence it wants to move into the central city beside rival Bluebridge, but won’t share facilities with them.

An estimated billion-dollar investment for new wharves in both Wellington and Picton is needed to allow KiwiRail to switch its Interislander operation to two new larger rail ferries by 2024.

Two years ago, the Future Ports Forum, comprising representatives from the Wellington Regional Council, the Wellington City Council, Centreport, the Transport Agency, KiwiRail, and Bluebridge was set up to look at where to best situate the capital’s new Cook Strait ferry terminal.

It was agreed the new site would be shared by the Interislander, which KiwiRail owns, and rival Bluebridge.

The latest report from interested stakeholders, released in April, recommended Kaiwharawhara where the Interislander ferries currently dock.

Regional Council (GWRC) chairperson Daran Ponter said KiwiRail left the forum before the final report was released because they did not agree with the location.

“Because they were on the working group they had an understanding of where that report was going to land in terms of its recommendation, they clearly didn’t agree with Kaiwharawhara as the preferred recommendation and they pulled out in advance. Not helpful, but it’s an interesting way of doing business.”

KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller denied leaving the forum, and said releasing the report did not make sense.

“What you are talking about is, ‘did we agree in the forum?’ and the fact is we didn’t agree in the forum, so we’d said no we don’t think that’s the best outcome and we made that very clear,” Miller said.

“Then you’d have to ask yourself, what was the benefit of the Future Ports Forum that couldn’t agree, when the two customers – Bluebridge and KiwiRail – couldn’t agree with the provider, that’s more the point.”

tructural engineers say the Kaiwharawhara site can be built to cope with earthquakes but geotech scientists are less sure.

Miller said it was the geotech report that made KiwiRail stop and think.

“Is this the best location on the port to put new ferries and a new terminal that is rail served? There’s also the motorway upgrade and the location on the port for future transport, which has always been a challenge at Kaiwharawhara, with road and rail location and for the passengers arriving from overseas and domestically, getting access to the Kaiwharawhara site,” he said.

Estimates for building new ferry terminals in both Picton and Wellington are vague – ranging somewhere between half a billion and a billion dollars.

Miller said the huge costs of having to remediate the site could not be ignored. “You can engineer your way out of many things, but what we’re told by the engineers is that the cost of mitigation is extremely high, so there is a cost component to this that you cannot ignore.”

KiwiRail prefers its new terminal to be at Kings Wharf, beside Bluebridge’s existing spot, and closer to downtown Wellington.

But GWRC chairperson Daran Ponter said while KiwiRail had zeroed in on the seismic issues at Kaiwharawhara, Kings Wharf also had problems.

Ponter said the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake showed how fragile the port was. The port received more than $600 million – the second biggest insurance payout in New Zealand’s history – for the damage suffered in that quake.

“Kings Wharf sits midway between the container terminal and the new BNZ centre, both of which were taken out in the November 2016 Kaikōura earthquake. So it would appear wherever you locate yourself around the Centreport site, you are potentially still open to being challenged by an earthquake.”

And documents suggest the lengths KiwiRail is prepared to go to get the site. An email seen by RNZ from their group general counsel, Jonathan Earl, to KiwRail managers in May raised the possibility of using the Public Works Act to secure it.

Ponter said that would be unprecedented and would effectively mean seizing land from regional ratepayers.

“Clearly KiwiRail are an acquiring authority under the Public Works Act, but Centreport itself is a public works. Because you can’t just use the Public Works Act because you like an option more than you like another. You’ve got to give good grounds for the option or for your preference.”

Miller denied that was an option they were pursuing.

“Well the Public Works Act is there to be used to acquire if we need to, and as I said to you we haven’t put in any time, effort into that because I do believe the relationship commercially long term is better to be resolved that way and that’s the way we’re going.”

Centreport is now preparing a third assessment report for a new site, but Miller said he was not keen to share a facility with Bluebridge at Kings Wharf because KiwiRail needed a single-use terminal.

“We needed a rail link span. We have far greater volumes of trucks and cars and passengers that we move, so we probably needed a greater area and how do you divvy up the cost in a single user terminal for that with a competitor?”

Ponter said regardless of KiwiRail’s preferences, ultimately the port company had to accommodate both operators.

In a statement, Bluebridge said it was aware of KiwiRail’s recent proposal to build another wharf adjacent to its site at Kings Wharf, and had provided feedback.

The report is due in the next two months.

In June, the State Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters told regional councils he wanted the forum to reconvene and find a solution.

Ports of Auckland tragedy: Maritime New Zealand leading investigation into worker’s death

Maritime NZ is heading an investigation into the death of a worker at the Ports of Auckland in the early hours of yesterday morning. Photo / Michael Craig
Maritime NZ is heading an investigation into the death of a worker at the Ports of Auckland Photo / Michael Craig

NZ Herald 31/8/20

Maritime authorities are now leading the investigation into the death of a worker at the Ports of Auckland over the weekend.

Emergency services were called to the Fergusson Container Terminal, in Parnell, about 2am yesterday.

WorkSafe was notified of the death, but has since released a statement saying Maritime New Zealand will be leading the investigation into the incident.

A spokesman for Maritime NZ confirmed it was looking after the investigation. Police are also involved.

The investigation comes as a workers’ union vows to fight for the health and safety of all people in the workplace – no matter what line of work they do.

First Union NZ took to social media site Twitter to express their views as well as pay tribute to yesterday’s victim.

“Everyone should be able to return home at the end of their shift, whatever work they do,” a post said today.

“Solidarity to the friends, whānau and workmates of the Ports of Auckland worker.

“Unions will continue to relentlessly champion health and safety in the workplace.”