It is a rare accolade; there are less than 20 recipients in almost a century of this industry body's lifetime.
This recognises an outstanding contribution to the power engineering industry by a visionary leader who has brought significant benefit to our electricity supply industry, and to New Zealand.
Our 19th recipient of the EEA Meritorious Service Award is Mark Gatland, recently retired CEO of Northpower.
Mark made a significant contribution to the Northpower business over his 28 year tenure with the company and the wider electricity industry during his 41 year career.
His industry contribution, especially to contracting models and safety, has been highly regarded.
He joined Northpower as Commercial Manager in 1989. Chief Executive nine years later, he has overseen immense growth in the company, steering it from an $81m revenue company to $340 million. The asset value of Northpower has lifted in that time from $77m to $455m, while staff grew from 184 to 1200.
Under Mark's guidance, Northpower has become known as a company highly focused on safety, keenly adept at innovation and extraordinarily lateral in thinking and application.
He oversaw New Zealand's first UFB fibre network build in Whangarei. Under Mark' guidance Northpower was voted best Lines Company in the country in 2013 and 2014 - while winning numerous other industry awards over the years, along with international accolades for its fibre network innovation and leadership.
With an absolutely unwavering commitment to safety, Mark doesn't only advocate for the best in Health and Safety within Northpower, but indeed, for all of New Zealand's electricity sector. Mark represented Northpower on the Business Leaders Forum - Zero Harm and has been at the helm of a company which has won numerous safety awards in recent years. Yet his drive for improvement and desire for his team to take responsibility for safety standards does not diminish.
Mark is highly intelligent, is an incredibly deep thinker and a man exceptionally passionate about the industry. He is always mulling over ways for improvement, industry collaboration and how to best tackle our electricity future - for the good of the industry and New Zealand Inc.
He is said by many to be visionary and humble, with a genuineness that inspires people to follow and respect, giving people free rein to innovate, investigate and succeed. His atypical leadership style is backed by a compassionate streak which has contributed to the leadership team he has formed around him. Yet he is always one step ahead, searching for opportunities and working out how to seize them.
His open door policy is renowned and he is often found in the field. Not many CEOs would clock up almost 40,000 km in mileage every year visiting their various North Island sites.
As a couple of award winning examples, Northpower developed a visual display of how Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that has saved many staff from receiving more serious injury. Northpower's 'Brother in Arms' display gained national recognition for leadership in safety including being awarded the 2013 EEA Safety Award. Mark's leadership drive for safety within the organisation has created an environment where staff willingly work towards innovation around safety. In doing so, Mark's efforts have developed into broad industry collaboration and Mark now regularly presents on safety.
As a result, Northpower has worked with senior delegates, the Public Service Association (PSA) and the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) to introduce a 'Just and Fair Safety' culture to its business.
Simon McKenzie, CEO of Vector, says; " He is always looking for ways to improve. He looks at how guys can work more safely and more efficiently at the same time. He's just an all-round bloody good guy who is hugely reliable, professional and dependable and approachable."
From an international perspective, Mark's fortitude is described by world safety guru Dan Houston; "Mark sees the value to an organisation in working safely. He knows that working harm-free is not only the right thing to do from a human standpoint, but it just makes good business sense too.
Mark believes in people. And having worked with utility executives on three continents, I can say again with full confidence, Mark Gatland is not just a National treasure, he is one whose leadership qualities stand out world-wide; an example to be emulated by his peers in any nation." So we have been lucky to have him in our industry, and in New Zealand, over such a long and successful career.