Hamilton airport directors resign after troubled year

NARELLE HENSON
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2013

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The top brass at Hamilton International Airport have been sidelined following a troubled year for the organisation - despite reassurances their performance was not to blame.

Three of the airport's four directors - chairman John Birch, Alastair Calder and Gay Shirley - handed in their resignations after they were informed their appointments would not be renewed by the five regional councils that make up the company shareholders.

Last year the airport lost its last international contract with Pacific Blue and reported a 6.7 per cent decrease in customer numbers, as well as a 10 per cent decrease in revenue.

However, Mr Birch said no indication had been given regarding the reasons for the change.

"Last year, the year before that, the year before that, we met the performance levels that had been outlined in the statement of intent.

"The last financial year was impacted on largely by one significant event which was the loss of international services."

He said the board had done an outstanding job in winning the contract with Pacific Blue in the first place, and had been proactive about developing the airport through the Titanium Park business development, securing approvals to extend the existing runway, and rebooting the Hamilton and Waikato Regional Tourism Organisation.

Mr Birch said he had not had discussions with any of the mayors who represented the five shareholders and was unsure why the change was considered necessary. "I don't believe this is a failed board as such. I think this has actually been a very successful board.

"If it was my business, would I have acted like this? No, I'd be lying if I said I would, but then it's not my business," he said.

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker, who represents the five regional council shareholders, said performance issues were not behind the decision to hand over the reins to someone else.

"I think the board did a very, very good job, but the incumbents have been there for quite some time."

She said the decision by Pacific Blue to pull out of the airport had been handled "very, very well" and the shareholders were happy with the outgoing board members' performance. However, it was time to bring in a new mix of experience and skills.

"The shareholders decided it was time to take a new look with fresh eyes at the strategic direction of the airport."

The new directors - John Spencer, Carlos da Silva and Annabel Cotton - will be officially appointed at the airport's annual meeting next week.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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