Richard Roberts - CEO Dunedin Airport

by Insiders Dunedin

Dunedin is full of passionate people who go out of their way to make this city a better place. But, one person I sat down with recently believes he could top the list of those who want to see Dunedin succeed. Better yet, he challenges anyone else who thinks he or she is as passionate about city as he is, to introduce yourself to him. No doubt the two of you will have a lot in common, and Richard has told me he would love to meet you as he will need to work out a way to beat you!

Late last week, I was lucky to get a chance to sit down with Richard Roberts, the newly appointed CEO of Dunedin International Airport. If you haven’t met Richard before it would be hard to believe that he is not originally from Dunedin, seeing how passionate he is about our great city. Although, Richard was not born here he has been in New Zealand and mainly Dunedin for the past 19 years. 

Originally from Yorkshire in England, Richard came to New Zealand working as an Engineer in a project management role on the Meridian Mall. Richard explained it to be an amazing introduction to the city that he will never forget. Especially, being introduced to Kiwi's and the work ethic we employ. 

Having only been to New Zealand once before on holiday and after spending a week here in Dunedin living in a house down North East Valley, Richard knew this is where he was going to spend the rest of his life. A simple choice in Richards mind, stating the city had everything his city back home did not. Even every place he had ever visited through Europe and America didn't. Every place Richard had visited in his travels were full of people, traffic and crime. Aspects of life Richard was not keen on! 

Something that was flipped on its head when being introduced to Dunedin. Richard could not believe how friendly people were and how relaxed the lifestyle was. It blew him away that complete strangers were willing to engage him in authentic, genuine conversations. He had been so used to the fast-paced life back home in England that it was unusual for him to pass people walking down the street. Even better, Richard remembers one of his first memories being a report on the radio acknowledging that a phone booth had been vandalised. Richard found this to be very odd, as back home he told me that it would almost be impossible to find a phone booth that had not been vandalised. A stark contrast to what he was accustomed to back in England. 

Working as an engineering project manager, it started to take him away from the city he loved. Too much time spent travelling with his job led Richard to make a career change. He wanted to be able to spend more time in the city. 

A chance application for a role at Dunedin Airport saw him land his first job that would base him here in the city. An opportunity that made Richard feel like the luckiest man in the world. Richard explained that he will always be in debt to the previous CEO for giving him a chance. Even more so for having faith in him to take on the new role as CEO of the Dunedin International Airport. A role Richard is very excited about. Especially, when you hear what his vision is for this city and how he believes we will get there. 

Richard sees the Airport as a facility, an enabler for the city. The Airport is Dunedin's connection to the rest of the country and the world. But, what Richard wants to achieve first is to connect the airport to the city.

Richard, along with his team, are wanting to provide a greater connection and association between the Airport, the City and the region.  The airport needs to be more engaged with their customers, their community, the city and its people. Although, Dunedin has the biggest geographical gap between the city and an airport in New Zealand, Richard believes this doesn’t have to mean there cant be a strong connection.

So how does Richard believe he will achieve this? Richard understands the importance of communication and ensuring that the airport spends time ensuring the city knows what it does, how the Airport works, and why they do what they do. More importantly, we need to share the Dunedin experience  which starts from the moment people step off that plane.

Richard explained it is not about selling the airport, but selling the destination. No one wants to visit an airport. Instead, people are searching for experiences and in Richards mind, this city is full of them. We are a unique city that is full of surprises, right at the bottom of the world. We have the steepest, rarest, and smallest things in the world.   

Richard knows that this is why people come to visit our city. He knows it is not the airport that attracts them. But, he understands that it is about giving them a taste of that experience when they arrive and leave our city that will bring them back for more. 

The more I sat down and talked with Richard about his thoughts , the more I started to believe what he was talking about. If I am, to be honest, you can start to feel a change in this city, and I think it is for the good. It feels as though we are on the cusp of greatness, and Richard might have the answer for our city to realise that greatness. 

Like Richard said, if you talk to someone long enough you start to build a relationship with them. Do that well and it will lead to trust. Once you have trust, you can work together well and then success might be realised. 

It is not something that will be fixed overnight. However, it is something that everyone in our city can work on together. 

Richard challenges people to be proactive and to talk to one another. He dreams that one day he can walk into a room full of Dunedin people willing to take that first step. To start the conversations and to break down the disconnect we see within our city, New Zealand, and the world. 

The challenge has been set and not only will I wish Richard well with his vision, but I will also encourage others to talk just like Richard has convinced me to. 

If you are interested in hearing more about Richards vision or want to speak further with him about our city his door is always open. 

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Post submitted by Joshua Jeffery


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