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Goulter's skills inspire confidence

By Graeme Kennedy

Friday 7th February 2003

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John Packard Goulter had already made his mark in the highest levels of corporate life before he took on the very public role as Auckland International Airport's first chief executive in June 1988.

He had spent 21 years with manufacturing and services company Ceramco ­ the last nine as a director ­ and gone out on his own as an operations management consultant to New Zealand and international firms for two years until the airport job beckoned.

Mr Goulter became AIAL managing director when the company was listed after the government sold its 51.6% stake in July 1998 and he began transforming what could have been just another major airport into a user-friendly mini-city of 8000 with all the attractions and amenities a community and its visitors needed.

"I came into the airport business with, on paper, little experience directly relevant to the industry," he said in an interview last year.

"I believe I was selected as CEO on the basis of my extensive international business experience and because of my reputation for developing organisations and leadership talent. Auckland Airport needed that kind of help at the time."

Mr Goulter, born in Auckland on August 8, 1941 and educated at Penrose High School, is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Programme and a fellow of the Institute of Management and of the Institute of Directors. He was appointed to the Reserve Bank board in 2000 for a five-year term and is a trustee and board member of the New Zealand Business and Parliament Trust.

Mr Goulter has been passionate about customer service and changed the airport culture from one of simply processing passengers onto airliners to making their passage through the airport a pleasant experience rather than an ordeal.

He moved AIAL from the transport industry to the service business and was always aware that the airport gave visitors their first and last impressions of New Zealand.

The company's focus on retail and commercial activities, which include the world's first onsite McDonald's and a 24-hour supermarket, reduced airfield revenues from 35% to 26.5% while lifting non-aviation income to 30%.

While Mr Goulter has driven major developments on AIAL land by freight forwarders and similar aviation-related interests, other groups such as Fonterra and New Zealand Post have also built on the airport.

The company last year earned a record $71.5 million on revenues of $201 million and is expected to top $80 million this year. AIAL is one of the top-10 largest listed on the Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of around $1.6 billion.

"I think airport management has been shrouded with a lot of mystique," he said recently. "As an outsider coming in I've discovered that there is not that much that's complicated about it ­ you're talking about the need for good management."

Mr Goulter, who is married to Elaine and has three children, will step down as managing director after a successor is found later this year but will act as a consultant until at least 2005. He lives in Auckland but is building a home in Northland not for retirement but for his "restructuring."

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