Demand for Auckland port resignations now off to the Beehive

The Maori Labour caucus is the next call for presenters of a letter to the Ports of Auckland demanding the resignation of chief executive Tony Gibson over documented health and safety failures at the country’s main imports gateway.

Shane Te Pou, one of three presenters today of the letter, said the group would now approach the Maori Labour caucus to try to get a “macro fix” on the concerns for worker safety. The presentation followed publication of an independent report critical of health and safety provisions at the port.

Te Pou, a former Labour Party executive member and former union organiser, delivered the letter to a senior port executive with Tau Henare, deputy chairman of the Independent Maori Statutory Board, and First Union leader Robert Reid.

A ports spokesman said the letter was “respectfully received” and the concerns of the trio heard.

“We won’t be making any further comment at this stage. Our focus is on implementing the recommendations of the report as soon as possible.”

Te Pou said they are also calling for the resignation of new port company chairman Bill Osborne, if he doesn’t ask Gibson to resign.

The port is owned by the Auckland Council, which commissioned the independent report which found systemic health and safety failures.

Te Pou said Gibson did not appear at the presentation but was not expected to.

He said the event was cordial. About 20 supporters also attended.

He expected a protest demonstration could be next if the resignation calls weren’t heeded.

The trio of presenters were simply representing themselves, he said.

Given the health and safety failures were found to be systemic, the chief executive and chairman did not have the necessary “moral imperative and moral authority” to oversee implementation of the independent report’s recommendations, Te Pou said.

There have been three deaths involving Ports of Auckland since 2017.

Te Pou said there had been many injuries also.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand which represents 164 stevedores at the port, has also called for Gibson’s resignation.

It plans a stop-work meeting to which board directors will be invited.

A statement from the letter presenters said that two port workers had lost their lives due to accidents at the port and a swimmer was accidentally struck by a pilot boat was “an appalling safety record”.

“And it beggars belief that Tony Gibson has said that he was unaware of many of the issues raised but will stay on to put things right.

“We are not the kind of people who call on people to resign for trivial mistakes – the report has found systemic health and safety failings at the Ports of Auckland and if Tony Gibson was unaware of these as CEO, it is all the more reason for him to resign.”

The letter said it was obvious Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and a number of councillors, as well as the Maritime Union, had no confidence in the chief executive.

The port company has also been under fire for its low productivity at a time of record imports container shipping, which has led to serious congestion and delays in the upper North Island supply chain.

The council owns the port but cannot interfere in operational matters due to the Port Companies Act. The council is however overseeing a change of board membership.

Osborne, a port director since 2017, took on the job recently with the retirement of chair Liz Coutts.

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