Pressure mounts on Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson to resign

4:15 pm on 8 April 2021

Campaigners, unionists and a councillor have ramped up calls for the resignation of the Ports of Auckland boss Tony Gibson, having hand delivered a letter this morning calling for him to quit.

Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson is facing calls to resign after an indepedent report criticised workplace health and safety protocols as inadequate.

Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson. Photo: RNZ / Nick Munro

After three deaths linked to the port - two staff in work accidents, and a member of the public swimming in the harbour - the ports' owners Auckland Council commissioned an independent report into the ports' health and safety record and processes.

The report found Ports of Auckland had "systemic problems" in relation to critical health and safety risk management, and "significant improvement" was needed.

First Union president Robert Reid, former unionist Shane Te Pou and former MP Tau Henare delivered a letter to the Ports this morning with a demand supported by the Maritime Union. Auckland Councillor Efeso Collins also showed his support by turning up at the delivery.

"In a three-year period, two port workers lost their lives due to accidents on the wharves, a speeding pilot boat accidentally struck and killed an ocean swimmer and numerous near misses and other accidents have been reported," the letter said.

"This is 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."

Before delivering the letter, Henare, who sits on Auckland Council's Independent Māori Statutory Board, said Gibson's remaining in the role was untenable.

"If any one of you was in charge of an organisation that had even one death, you'd be lined up... at Paremoremo [Auckland Prison] or Mount Eden [prison].

"There are three people that have lost their lives. Two people have turned up for work one day and not returned home. Let that sink in. And the cheek of Tony Gibson to say 'I didn't know what was going on' is actually the reason he should go straight away."

First Union's Robert Reid said the organisation's lifelong work had been to keep people in their jobs, so the decision was not made lightly.

"That report was horrific. It really blew the whistle on what was happening at Ports of Auckland," Reid said.

"It's unusual for us to call for people to be dismissed, even chief executives. But in this case, when we know how bad health and safety has been here - the mayor has talked about it, councillors have talked about it, the union has talked about it."

The letter was received by the Ports' Chief Financial Officer, but there was no sign of Gibson.

A Ports of Auckland spokesperson said the letter was received and representatives had a chat with Reid, Te Pou and Henare, and that the organisation was focused on implementing the report's recommendations.

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