New chair at Napier Port – Blair O’Keeffe

Blair O’Keeffe has replaced Alasdair MacLeod as Napier Port chair. Alasdair was a board member since 2014 and at the helm for 8 years, playing a significant role in helping navigate the port through COVID-19 while at the same time undertaking a major new wharf project to create new shipping opportunities for local businesses. Blair, born and bred in Hawke’s Bay has a senior executive background including being a chief executive of a major port. He has other governance roles including fellow NZ listed company Z Energy.

What is your connection to Hawke’s Bay? I grew up in Hawke’s Bay, going to school in Napier. I had a great childhood, long summers, the beach, sports, fishing (including around the port when that was allowed…they were different times). After school and polytechnic (now EIT), I left to go to university and then developed my career around New Zealand and then offshore. After 25 years as a senior executive and CEO, I made the decision to develop my governance career and then had the freedom to choose where to live. Hawke’s Bay became an obvious choice. My wife and I were keen to give our young son the kind of lifestyle Hawke’s Bay offers and most of my family is still based here. We’ve been back for nearly seven years now and can’t imagine being anywhere else.

What’s your interpretation of good governance? It starts with direction. Ensuring there is a clear and robust strategy, supported by a good plan, with the right people, resources and monitoring systems, to deliver it in a constantly changing world around us. Strong values and a culture of care for the people, stakeholders and shareholders of the business are essential. As is diversity of thinking at the board and executive table.

As a former CE of a port, how do you ensure not to blur the line between governance and management? I like to keep things simple. The CEO runs the company. The Board is there to ensure they are successful doing that. That requires a strong, open relationship between the Board and CEO, built on trust, collaboration and respect. Good CEO’s operate at their best when they are given the space to be accountable and grow, under leadership that is there to guide, motivate, develop and challenge them when needed to get the best outcomes.


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First published by The Profit. Click here to read the full article.