A Crown entity set up in 1993, Maritime New Zealand is the national regulatory, compliance and response agency for the safety, security and environmental protection of coastal and inland waterways.
With around 250 staff located across their Wellington head office, regional offices and two response sites, towards the end of 2019, Maritime NZ was informed of Level 5 in 1 Grey Street, Wellington coming to the market for lease. This gave Maritime NZ the opportunity to consolidate more of its Wellington head office staff into its Grey Street building – and prompted the need for a more future-focused, strategic approach to their property portfolio. Maritime NZ selected TwentyTwo to review its needs and provide feedback about how best to proceed.
Emma Barker spoke to Maritime NZ’s Chief Financial Officer, Sally Kane (below), about how TwentyTwo’s independent strategic advice proved invaluable for the decision at hand and for creating a catalyst for change within the organisation…
Could you start by explaining your role?
“My role as CFO includes finance, property and procurement. Our Property and Procurement team are responsible for developing the property strategy, the vision for what we want in our property portfolio and implementing that.
Our head office in Wellington accommodates 60-70% of our staff and then we have 12 satellite offices around the country delivering core frontline compliance and response services”.
So your head office staff are split across two offices in Grey Street and Customhouse Quay in Wellington? What’s the plan?
“Maritime NZ has grown substantially over the last three years in particular – from about 170 FTEs now getting close to 300. Our funding is linked to government budget cycles which means there’s often a short window between when new funding is approved and when we need to be scaled up to deliver new responsibilities. That growth is often ad hoc and we've had to source property solutions reasonably quickly – this means we haven’t been as strategic with our property solutions as we'd like and unfortunately are spread across multiple tenancies within the Wellington CBD.
Up until recently, we also had quite a traditional approach to property and workplace design so it’s been in the back of our minds that we'd like to modernise and be a bit more flexible in our workplace solutions.
We were approached about an opportunity on Level 5 of 1 Grey Street where we already have the bulk of our Wellington CBD space. We knew there was likely going to be some further growth in head count in the next 12 months and our property density was already near the maximum guidelines from GPG. But we didn’t have the capacity to review the opportunity ourselves so we decided to get experts onboard”.
And this is where Chris at TwentyTwo came in…?
"It is. We needed someone to help us put a strategic frame over our existing challenges and CBD footprint and help us decide if we should be chasing this opportunity or pausing and looking at something alternative or different.
We decided to go with TwentyTwo because we wanted someone independent to really understand our needs. When we first met with Chris, there were two things that stood out – first, he knew the market but, probably more important for us, he was listening to what our challenges were – ‘we know we need to be more flexible, we know we probably need a bit more space, we know that we probably want to move in this direction, but we haven't had a chance to actually pull the strategic case together’. He was really good at picking up on all of those challenges and defining our requirements”.
What value did TwentyTwo add in the early stages?
"Probably the most important thing for us was framing up all of our operational challenges and putting a more strategic lens over it. Chris very quickly worked out what our limitations were in terms of planning and size and could see the constraints in the way we were working. But the benefit of having an independent advisor was that he could communicate and negotiate on our behalf with the landlord, the other tenant, the agent representing them, develop content for our Governance meetings and work with our lawyers to develop lease documentation. We had full faith that Chris was keeping things moving and seeking our advice and decisions at the right points… it was great having an advisor that we could call on to provide an end-to-end solution”.
And on a day-to-day basis?
"We were very pleased with the quality and comprehensiveness of the advice from TwentyTwo, and Chris particularly. We told him the information we’d need to make a decision, our decision-making processes and the key timeframes. And he tied into that perfectly. He pitched it at the right level in terms of what was needed for us to take the decision through our Executive and Governance processes. It fitted all our expectations.
The property industry is a challenging one and can be tricky to navigate if it’s not your core purpose – which is why we wanted someone in our camp. Chris was across all the details and knew the tricks of the trade to help us achieve the best outcome. To actually have someone that's dealing with the property industry day in, day out… there's always merit in having the experts working on our behalf”.
Where are you at now?
"We are still in the early stages of developing a more long-term, robust property strategy. We don’t want to commit ourselves to long-term leases when we haven’t come up with that plan.
Chris aligned all of our lease dates in the Wellington CBD and we managed to push out the renewal date a little. So it has bought us time not only to complete our property strategy, but also hopefully to allow us a good window to be able to decide if our existing property portfolio is the right solution long-term and transition if required.
We've completed the initial exploratory phase to understand where we are as an organisation, what's important for us, what information we have and what we don't have. TwentyTwo is now assisting in pulling that together into a more formal property strategy”.
What’s your main focus going forward?
"We want to create a strategy that works for our people, supports our purpose and has buy-in across the board.
The workplace is changing pretty quickly now; we’re seeing that in the type of people we’re trying to attract and how they like to work, technology is moving so fast, the whole move to paperless, the focus on collaboration, working from home is becoming normalised… If we want to move in the direction the world is going, we need to be a little bit more deliberate about how we do that. And, as an organisation, we're only really starting to tap into that now. It's exciting.
The biggest benefit of having the additional floor at Grey Street is that it has created a catalyst for us to think differently about our future workplace and experiment with that. We are now trialling new ways of working, more flexible technology solutions and embedding a move to paperless. Our Chief Executive and other leaders are also excited about the opportunities that the more flexible floor plate on Level 5 offers and have also embraced more experimentation so the momentum of change is building. TwentyTwo are now helping us explore where that might lead both on our other floors at Grey Street and at our other offices around the country.
We’ve created a staff workplace reference group to explore how the learnings from the new workplace on Level 5 of Grey Street and other Government property initiatives can be translated across to these more operational sites. Eventually this work will feed into our property strategy.
We're now trying to keep pace with the desire for change instead of having to create a catalyst for change. It's great to be leading this work and experimenting along the way”.