Executive of the Year: Mark Cairns

This year’s awards judges say Cairns, chief executive of Port of Tauranga for the past seven years, heads business that is “role model for all New Zealand’s infrastructure enterprises”. 

“The Port of Tauranga has delivered strong results for its shareholders in recent years under Cairns’ leadership,” they say, “and this is reflection of the company’s strong management.” 

In his latest annual report, Port of Tauranga chair John Parker describes Cairns as the leader of senior management team that “possesses an outstanding ability to drive future-focused strategy, while maintaining the day-to-day focus on customer needs”.

The comment, say the judges, eloquently summarises the many reasons why they chose Cairns as this year’s Top 200 Executive of the Year.

Under Cairns’ leadership, the port’s senior management team this year has responded to number of acute, and often unexpected, issues. These include the grounding of the container ship MV Rena and the diversion of containers as consequence of industrial stoppages at the Ports of Auckland. 

For their part, the judges believe Cairns effectively delivers his board’s strategy both in the way he deals with issues of the day and how he plans for the port’s future needs.

Cairns outlined his leadership focus for the port’s future in his latest annual report.

He said it was vital that the port maintain and improve its class-leading productivity and customer service, and the company would continue to invest in the equipment and people required to do that. The port’s employees were, he added, “integral to the success of the business”.

Cairns places high priority on safety at the port, stating “our productivity achievements are hollow if our safety performance is not equally strong”.

He says Port of Tauranga’s safety record is one of the best of all New Zealand ports. “But we can always do better and we are striving to achieve the goal of zero-harm work environment.”

Cairns and Port of Tauranga will face another challenging year. But his board believes the port’s earnings growth will continue, based on the soundness of the port’s diversification strategy and Cairns’ ability to deliver it. 

This year’s Top 200 judges say Cairns is worthy recipient of this prestigious award.


Dean Bracewell, managing director, Freightways

Simon Challies, managing director, Ryman Healthcare

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