Mark Gatland

Finalist
2014

Mark Gatland has overseen Northpower’s expansion from a modest regional lines business to an infrastructure owner and contracting business with operations throughout the North Island, Australia and the Pacific.

Since he took over as chief executive in 1998, the firm’s revenue has more than tripled to $303 million. Over the same period its workforce and asset base have increased six-fold to 1,200 and $450 million respectively.

The company says its success has been influenced by the culture Mark has instilled in the business.

Northpower is recognised for its innovation and the lateral thinking it brings to the engineering challenges it and its clients face. The business is also highly focused on safety, reflecting Mark’s own passion and determination to achieve industry-wide improvement in that area.

Outgoing Northpower chair Warren Moyes says Mark is a rare engineer in that he has a broad vision which enables him to see options and opportunities that others haven’t grasped.

His forward-thinking and quiet approach inspires those around him. He is also a skilful manager who expects performance but gives people free rein to innovate, investigate and succeed.

Under Mark’s leadership Northpower has had the confidence to expand into high-voltage transmission contracting and fibre optic installation. It is also using the latest technologies in its maintenance activities and in its own internal management systems to deliver better, safer results.

Growth

Northpower Contracting has grown from next to nothing in the 1990s to a business with annual revenue of almost $200 million. It has secured contracts with Vector, Wellington Electricity and Transpower. In Australia it works with Western Power, SP AusNet and Powercor.

Contracting now accounts for about 80 per cent of group revenue.

Northpower is also part-owner of the ultra-fast broadband network it built in Whangarei in partnership with Crown Fibre Holdings. The firm, which completed the three-year project two months ahead of schedule, is now considering building a separate fibre network for the company’s rural customers.

As the firm completed the UFB fibre build it continued looking at developing technologies to benefit its customers and improve its own processes.

Last year the company issued hundreds of iPads to all its field crews, improving maintenance planning, reducing re-visits, and saving at least $100,000 a year.

It also partnered with Vector to trial new ultrasonic technology to test more than 60,000 poles on the two firms’ networks – an innovation that could save the New Zealand electricity sector millions of dollars annually.

Northpower has aligned with Korea’s UIT Networks to develop inspection techniques that will improve fault detection and lower the cost of asset condition monitoring. Northpower says the technology has the potential to be a ‘game-changer’ in terms of improving the health and reliability of the country’s electricity networks.

Another game-changer Mark sees for the region and his customers is electric cars. Not only are daily running costs around a quarter of that of petrol and diesel vehicles, but night-time charging would improve the efficiency of the network and may reduce network charges over time.

The firm has now installed the country’s first public fast-charging station (in Whangarei) in a bid to encourage their introduction.

The Energy Executive of the Year Award category is sponsored by WorleyParsons