Rick Herd might only be seven weeks into his role as chief
executive of Dunedin-based construction firm Naylor Love but
already he is talking like a true southerner. Business editor
Dene Mackenzie met Mr Herd earlier this week.
Inevitably, the conversation with new Naylor Love chief
executive Rick Herd starts with progress, or lack of it, on
the rebuilding of Christchurch.
It had been a tough couple of years for the construction
industry, probably the toughest in his 40 years in the
industry - and that included the period after the 1987
sharemarket crash and following the global recession, Mr Herd
The recent collapse of construction firm Mainzeal was an
example of just how tough it was out there.
''Things are on the up - driven by the Christchurch
earthquake rebuild. But while progress is not at a glacial
pace, it is still not coming on with the speed that people
The slowness of the rebuild had allowed other construction
companies to establish themselves in the South Island's
largest city and competition for contracts was tough, he
Although Naylor Love had established itself in the city about
20 years ago, establishing a reputation took time.
''We had to establish a team and deliver three or four big
projects to get a reputation people can trust. There is work
from the Christchurch rebuild emerging but it is not coming
through in volume. Large projects like the convention centre
and the health precinct take a lot of planning.''
That was no surprise, Mr Herd said. The gestation of large
projects took years. The fact that projects were on drawing
boards two years after a major earthquake was a sign
significant work was being done. However, there was still a
long way to go.
During a downturn, it was a struggle for construction firms
like Naylor Love to keep a team together. The firm wanted to
keep its best people focused, motivated and challenged.
''The hardest thing in our generation is to hire good people
and keep them. We have a good culture within Naylor Love that
The collapse of Mainzeal had given Naylor Love, and others,
the chance to take on extra skilled staff. With up to 400
people looking for work, it was an opportunity that came
along only rarely, Mr Herd said.
Naylor Love was recently named as part of the successful
consortium for the Queenstown convention centre project and
there were indications it would be involved in other projects
in the region.
''We are seeing growth in the level of bidding opportunities
in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.''
There would likely be opportunities for Dunedin workers to be
involved in the rebuilding of Christchurch but Mr Herd did
not envisage large numbers of Naylor Love workers leaving the
city for Christchurch. A Dunedin team might take on one or
two jobs, but the company was based in Dunedin with an Otago
focus. It also had an office in Queenstown.
''We have been based here in Dunedin for 100 years and we
will continue to be based here,'' he said.
Staff numbers were growing rapidly in both Auckland and
Christchurch as ex-pat New Zealanders returned looking for
work and immigrants from the United Kingdom and other places
In Auckland, the office had 16 nationalities among the 80
staff - a real United Nations, Mr Herd said.
Christchurch had its difficulties. While work would come, the
negatives included an accommodation shortage and being an
expensive place to live.
Mr Herd was optimistic about the future of construction with
the opportunities emerging after a two-year downturn but also
appreciated that full recovery was some time off.
Construction was the first area to go into decline in a
downturn but one of the first to respond when confidence
improved. The industry was cyclical and was affected by
things like the high value of the New Zealand dollar.
Fonterra and Solid Energy were both examples of how the high
dollar meant some projects were shelved. Solid Energy was
affected by a high exchange rate and the falling price for
coal. Fonterra was affected by the higher dollar but high
commodity prices provided a buffer, he said.
Naylor Love continued to be a huge supporter of apprentices
and was one of the largest employers of them in the country.
It also had a project management cadet scheme.
When Mr Herd was chairman of the Nelson College for Boys'
board of trustees, he oversaw the building of a trades
faculty to encourage young people into trades as a career. As
a country, New Zealand had under-rated apprenticeships, he
''We have been too busy telling kids to go to university to
get a degree and undervaluing trades. It is a cultural thing.
Our parents kept telling us we need to go to university to
get a business degree. Some people are suited for academic
life but there are people more suited for trades.''
Among those employed by Naylor Love were tradespeople,
quantity surveyors and project managers, all of whom needed
qualifications, he said.
Although Naylor Love was a national company, the head office
was in Dunedin and Mr Herd said he would be in the city
regularly. The company had a long trading history in Otago
and he wanted to continue that heritage.
There was no reason a company head office could not be run
from anywhere in New Zealand with the development of IT and
communications technology, he said.
''We have good people here who want to live here and we want
to keep them here.''
Asked about his goals in his new role, Mr Herd said they were
the same as the firm's - to be the best construction company
in New Zealand. That did not mean being the largest, just the
''When contracts come up we want to be the first choice. We
have a fantastic reputation in Dunedin. We want that
Chief executive of Naylor Love
• Forty-year career in the construction industry.
• Married to Sue, with two children - Jessica, a barrister
and solicitor in Nelson, and Alex, a commerce student at
• Mr Herd started work in 1973 on an engineering cadetship
with the Ministry of Works in Christchurch, working on hydro,
bridge, road and irrigation projects around the South Island.
Moved to Wellington with the Ministry of Works and was
involved in contract supervision on Wellington motorway
construction in central Wellington then the construction of
the Ngauranga Gorge interchange. A keen rugby player, he
played with Oriental Rongotai in Wellington. He met his
future wife a few weeks after arriving in Wellington. Mrs
Herd later took a job with Mainzeal, followed by Mr
Mr Herd lived in Otematata working for Mainzeal on completing
the converter station at the Benmore Dam. He also worked
under secondment in Bangkok on a large hotel project and
built a hotel in Port Vila, Vanuatu, for Fletcher Building.
In 1993, he was appointed South Island construction manager
for Mainzeal, based in Christchurch.
• In 2000, he joined Nelson Pine Industries as general
manager. In 2005, he joined Brightwater Engineering as chief
Local link: Mr Herd's uncle, Jim Herd, was based at
the Caversham Police Station during the 1960s and was a
senior police officer in Dunedin until he retired.