This Christmas I’d like to review 2017 – a year mostly of wins, but also of some losses.

Most importantly I wanted to let you know how much we’ve appreciated and enjoyed working with you during this year to progress our industry issues forward.


A louder voice for the industry

Reflecting back, I especially note my ThinkTank@HERA pieces on fair and free trade. Responding to the inauguration of Donald Trump as the President of the USA and his much more protectionist trade policy – including getting out of the TPP. And, at the occasion of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to New Zealand, to request that our trade partners play by the book and not dump below cost or substandard products onto us to undermine our own competitiveness unfairly.

You may also recall my steel construction think piece on the collapse of Statistics House and how I felt steel construction could be the answer to more resilient structures in New Zealand. In this context, I was especially pleased to be able to report continued progress in steel construction product conformance through strong industry participation growth in our Steel Fabrication Certification (SFC) Scheme. The introduction of the new steelwork quality assurance standard AS/NZS 5131 has certainly assisted this, and we appreciated MBIE’s support to promptly put it into mandatory action with an announced citing in the Building Code.

No doubt many of you followed my thoughts on the risks of importing fabricated structural steelwork which was expected to meet local conformance requirement – and why I believe liquidated steel fabrication importer Challenge Steel failed to realistically cost this risk. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just imported fabricated steel in the news – our own steel supply chain made headlines by supplying non-conforming products – affecting our industry’s image (even though related mainly to concrete construction).


No pain, no gain

The saying ‘no gain without pain’ was also evident in our inability to get our government co-funded research projects going. This was highlighted in my July piece, where we outlined why our research partnership proposal failed to ignite industry buy-in.

This was also reflected in our Chairman’s think piece on why member companies A&G Price and AMTEC Engineering had to close, and the importance of HERA having an effective industry development program to assist our members in being transformative to adjust to changing market conditions. It’s something we covered extensively in this years’ strategy review and our stream at the Metals Industry Conference in Christchurch.

On the innovation front, I want to highlight our progress in composite steel-concrete structures and seismic welded connection research, which have been translated into a series of new and revised standards. This was complemented with a massive effort in modernising our communications and a brand refresh. Both activities have been widely reported on in our ‘new look’ Annual Report. But watch this space, as there’s more to come as our new website goes live in 2018!


New government, new direction

Looking to the next few years, the signals set by our new coalition Government for local manufacturing is positive – bringing me to welcome Jacinda to the driver’s seat in my October thought piece. Their policies set are supportive to our cause and we now need to make sure they’re implemented – be it in R&D, regional industry development or government procurement policies.

However, Jacinda isn’t the only dynamic female leading us into the future!

We also welcome our new CEO Dr Troy Coyle, who no doubt will bring fresh energy to our mission to be the catalyst for innovation for our members. Troy takes over from me in January, leaving me with fond memories of working with you over the past 31 years – the last 17 of which were as your HERA Director.


Specific to this year

I wish to thank all my colleagues and supportive industry members for their tremendous contributions.

Special mention must be made of our staff members who left or are leaving this year: Industry Development GM Nick Inskip who worked with many on new ground in their business development.

HERA CEO Dr Troy Coyle.

Resource Officer Gillian Casidy whose administrative, health & safety, and library services didn’t go unnoticed, and our tirelessly committed AGGAT researchers Dr’s Haiam Abbas and Lei Chen who’ve advanced our research and IP development in clean energy for our AGGAT program.

We wish them all the best in their new endeavours and thank them for their contributions to our members and to HERA.


My parting gift

I’m not letting you go without leaving you with a thoughtful Christmas present to hopefully be consumed over your well-deserved break! Award winning speaker/writer and past HERA conference speaker Bill James teamed up with our former General Manager Industry Development Nick Inskip to write an inspirational, easy to read and educational story of a burned out engineering sales person Sam Porter working in our well described New Zealand engineering environment.

It tells the story of how we all have something to sell – and how to get back into business when we are down. Titled “To the edge and back’, it’ll be released next year – and I hope you’ll enjoy the privilege of being able to enjoy it ahead of launch time while learning how to improve yourself in a fun way.

Thanks to Bill and Nick for making this possible!

My parting words as your HERA Director are one of wishing all of you an enjoyable break. I’m sure after reading this Christmas book,  you’ll all come back with tonnes of fresh energy for 2018!