Rob Fyfe recognised for his services to business and tourism

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 31 Dec 2020, 1:40PM
Rob Fyfe was formerly CEO of Air New Zealand and CEO chairman of Icebreaker. Photo / Doug Sherring
Rob Fyfe was formerly CEO of Air New Zealand and CEO chairman of Icebreaker. Photo / Doug Sherring

Rob Fyfe recognised for his services to business and tourism

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 31 Dec 2020, 1:40PM

Veteran businessman and proud Kiwi Rob Fyfe has been recognised for his services to business and tourism.

Fyfe, who for the past nine months has played a critical role when it came to the Government's relationship with the private sector during the Covid-19 response, has been appointed as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM).

The former chief executive of Kiwi merino wool clothing company Icebreaker and national carrier Air New Zealand has been credited for helping develop brand New Zealand and the country's clean, green tourism image.

Fyfe was chief executive of Air New Zealand between 2005 and 2012, and his leadership helped develop "brand New Zealand". As CEO, he was a key driver of recognising those who had lost their lives in the 1979 Erebus and 2008 Perpignan tragedies, as well as their families. After the 2011 Christchurch earthquake he oversaw Air New Zealand's provision of cheap and flexible flights in and out of Christchurch.

Between 2013 and 2018 he was CEO and chairman of Icebreaker, focusing its efforts of sustainable manufacturing and future for New Zealand merino farmers.

Fyfe said his accolade was a "nice way to round out what has been a very tumultuous year".

He said he would celebrate the achievement with his family, and acknowledged the sacrifices they had made over the course of his career.

"I feel really privileged to [have] played a role in some really important New Zealand companies and to get this recognition means a lot to me as it ties in so much to my sense of identity as a New Zealander," Fyfe told the Herald.

When Fyfe left school at 17, he spent the first nine years of his working life in the Air Force, and has since worked in a number of industries and sectors.

He was previously general manager of the Bank of New Zealand and chief operating officer of ITV Digital. He has also been a director of jeweller Michael Hill International since 2014, director of Air Canada since 2017, an independent director of Trilogy International, chairman of the CEO Board of Star Alliance, a member of the Board of Governors at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a director of Antarctica New Zealand, and is currently director of Hammerforce and advisor to Craggy Range.

Fyfe continues to be the Government's Covid-19 adviser to the private sector, liaising liaison between the Government and businesses. He was approached for the role by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the lockdown.

He is now focused on the "strategic future" of New Zealand and the rebuilding of the country and has been contracted to work in the job into 2021.

This is not the first time Fyfe has been appointed as an advisor to the government. In 2018, he was an independent advisor on plans for the re-entry of the Pike River drift.

Reflecting on the past 35 years in business, Fyfe said it had been "a collection of adventures" as he forged his own way in life.

"I've been attracted to things that are challenging, often things that are quite risky for me personally in terms of job opportunities - most of those here in New Zealand, but some time working offshore as well; it's been a fabulous collection of adventures."

The first 20 years was about constantly learning and overcoming challenges, and the last 10 had been centred around giving back and mentoring young people starting out on their own business journeys, he said, adding that had been "equally as much fun" as what he had achieved himself.

The next decade of his life would be dedicated to helping others realise their ambitions and dreams, Fyfe said, through investing in start-ups and providing mentorship.

His time at Air New Zealand, including when it was recognised the best airline in the world two years in succession, had been a stand-out moment in his career. When he joined the company, he was tasked with getting Kiwis to fall back in love with the airline.

"We worked really hard to try and recreate a love affair between New Zealanders and the national airline, and we made a lot of progress. We brought the personality of Air New Zealand back to life and that felt like a real sense of achievement at the time."