2012 Beacon Award
Ports exist largely because of local geography. However, having good natural features does not automatically result in a return to shareholders. This requires leadership, teamwork, local support, financial management, quality service, and a strategic focus on large customers.
Port of Tauranga, Chairman, John Parker has demonstrated all of these skills and as a result is a worthy winner of the New Zealand Shareholders Association Beacon Award for 2012.
John graduated with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science, and joined the New Zealand Dairy Board eventually rising to Deputy CEO. During this time he attended and graduated from the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard. He has wide experience of business and infrastructure having farmed, and served as director of Dairy Meats NZ Limited, Toll Owens Limited, Livestock Improvement Corporation, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, Northport Ltd, and Farming Systems Uruguay. John joined the board of Port of Tauranga in 1996, and has been chairman since 2004.
Port of Tauranga’s strategic focus has involved developing Metroport in the heart of the Manukau city industrial belt, expanding its log and chip handling facilities, increasing cranes and container handling capacity, encouraging KiwiRail to expand its capacity to 15 trains per day, developing new arrangements with shipping services for regular calls, developing container tracing and shuttle-choosing software for customers, and investing in joint venture with Northport and Northtugz. Port of Tauranga is rapidly becoming the northern sea transport hub of choice.
John and the board’s vision produced another outstanding result in 2012 including growth in all major cargo categories, a record net profit, and exceptional total shareholder return. The Port’s relationship with its cornerstone shareholder Bay of Plenty Council is at an all time high. The local community has benefitted from its support of the historic Elms Mission House restoration, sporting sponsorship, and Maori Tertiary Education scholarships.
2012 saw particular difficulties. The grounding of the Rena and subsequent demands for cleanup threatened services. Industrial action at Port of Auckland created unprecedented demand, and court appeals against the dredging programme were a frustration. Add to this the challenge of accommodating 83 summer cruise ships, and you have a board and management team at full stretch.
John chairs an unusual and cooperative management system. The board includes representatives from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, the 55% owner. However the council allows the Port to run its business in a fully commercial manner. This is a shining example of the Mixed Ownership Model. Unusually, John involves not only the CEO, but other senior managers in all board meetings. This results in alignment with the strategic vision of the board. When advised of the NZSA award, John immediately commented that “surely this is for the whole team”.
In our view, teamwork starts at the top and John’s guidance has been essential to developing the hugely successful culture at Ports of Tauranga. As a result, the company, shareholders, the community and New Zealand have all benefited.