Community leaders threaten action if Auckland port bosses don’t resign

One of the presenters this morning of a letter demanding the resignation of Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson has promised to take the call to the “next level” if necessary, with protest action.

Shane Te Pou, a former Labour Party executive member and former union organiser, is one of three community representatives who will deliver a letter to the port company at 10am demanding Gibson resign, following a damning independent health and safety report released before Easter.

The others are Tau Henare, deputy chairman of the Independent Maori Statutory Board, and First Union leader Robert Reid.

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.

Te Pou said he didn’t expect the petitioners to get past the port’s security gates but it would not be the end of the matter.

He expected a big protest demonstration would follow soon and he would be speaking to senior members of the Government imminently.

The trio of presenters were simply representing themselves, he 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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