Nigel Gear ready for new role

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Nigel Gear says he’s got some big shoes to fill when he takes over as South Port chief executive.

Mr Gear will take over from Mark O’Connor, who will step down from the position on October 1.

“Mark’s done an excellent job. He’s been a good leader for the company and an excellent person to learn from,” he said.

Mr Gear, who has been with the company for 23 years, started out at South Port as an accountant and is currently the company’s commercial manager.

Mr O’Connor would be leaving the company in the best shape it had ever been in, Mr Gear said.

The company’s annual report for the financial year ending June 2016 showed a record profit of $8.71 million and record volumes for cargo handled by South Port – 3.05 million tonnes for the year ending June 2017.

South Port board chairman Rex Chapman said breaking the 3 million tonnes threshold had been a significant milestone for the company and had come on the back of consistent growth achieved over several years.

Mr Chapman said the port’s freight volumes had climbed steadily since 2010 and Mr O’Connor had been “a significant contributor to the financial strength and commercial success” of the company.

However, changes were coming for the port in the shape of “a programme of increased maintenance expenditure on fixed infrastructure”, he said.

A number of assets were at or near the end of their physical useful life and profits for the past financial year had taken a slight dent (down to $8.45m from $8.71m), partly because of an increase in repairs and maintenance costs, he said.

Maintenance projects for the coming year included an estimated $5m expense for the construction of “replacement access” for the Town Wharf’s fuel import berth, which was critical to supplying petroleum products for Southland and the Wakatipu Basin.

To assist the growth of log exports, a 10ha log storage area would be paved and adjoining drainage systems would be upgraded, at an estimated cost of $2.2m, Mr Chapman said.

Despite these expenses, Mr Gear said he was optimistic container traffic and log exports would continue to increase in the foreseeable future.

Exports from forestry now represented almost 30% of the port’s business, and were “expected to stay steady for the next seven to 10 years”, he said.

However, the burden of ensuring the company remained competitive wasn’t on his shoulders alone, he said.

“We have an excellent management team, board and staff, which make the place the success it is.”

Mark O’Connor is a finalist for the Southland Business Personality Award as part of the 2017 Southland Business Excellence Awards run by the Southland Chamber of Commerce.

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