Business Leaders

Doug Ducker – an industry icon retires

Doug Ducker has seen more than two consecutive forestry plantations grow to full harvest, having worked for Pan Pac for nearly 46 years. Doug started as a process engineer and in 2004 became the businesses Managing Director.

Pan Pac began as a Joint Venture involving Carter Holt (60%) and two Japanese companies, Oji Paper and Sanyo Kokusaku Pulp in 1973 and under Doug’s leadership it operates one of New Zealand’s largest sawmills with lumber output around 500,000 m3/a, a pulpmill producing 270,00adt/a, retains tree ownership for around 35,000Ha and supports harvest and util- isation of over 1.5 million tonnes of logs. In 2016 it established a second sawmill, currently producing 100,000m3/a in Milton, Otago.

Total assets involved are close to S1Billion NZ with annual sales around $400Million/a. The business which is now owned by Oji Paper employs around 420 staff and has over 450 people involved as full time contractors through our forestry planting, harvesting and cartage programs.

Doug has been a significant contributor to the Hawke’s Bay Business community serving on the board of the Chamber of Commerce and Business Hawke’s Bay. Pan Pac is also the lead sponsor of the Chamber’s business awards.

Tell us about your career?

I joined Pan Pac in December 1974 and, save a brief period working in Sydney, Australia in 1984, have been with the company since then.

I was initially employed as a process engineer to support the expanding pulp mill operation and over the next 30 years assumed roles covering technical services, environmental management, project development and production management. In October 2004 I became Managing Director (CEO) of the company taking responsibility for our Forestry, Sawmilling and Pulping operations.

Pan Pac is Japanese owned – what were some of the challenges in bedding down the relationship in the early days?
The relationship with Japan has always relied strongly on TRUST eg original contracts for the formation of the company were very simply written.

Over the first 20 years as a JV company executive direction came via Auckland, in the latter years and particularly since 2007 the management relationships are direct between Whirinaki and Tokyo. On occasions the processes of Japan, particularly the need for detail, are frustrating for the New Zealanders however the outcomes are generally stronger for it.

Pan Pac has maintained a program of continuous growth over the decades with annual capex spend exceeding $30 million a year over recent years.

What have you learned in a business sense from the Japanese partnership?
A strong characteristic of the Japanese has been the long- term commitment to their investment. While there is the deep monthly analysis of company performance, it is underpinned by the understanding that our products are subject to commodity pricing rules. These can see cycles that on occasion may cause one to question viability to continue; however, a capacity to ride through the low is usually applied. Having said this, the drive to improve efficiency and reduce unnecessary cost is always there.

Pan Pac has always retained some secondees from Japan to support liaison and technical/administrative understanding – results of which being some lifelong associations between New Zealand and Japanese people have developed and cultural understanding enhanced.

Pan Pac has been a keen supporter of the community – both in general and business – why has it been important to contribute?

Most of Pan Pac’s markets are conducted on a Business to Business level with over 85% to export customers. As such we do not maintain a strong market presence in either Hawke’s Bay or New Zealand. We are however very dependent upon the support of locals for log supply, engineering services, transport capacity along with a trained and capable workforce. As a result support of local activity has been exercised as appropriate – this includes over 15 years sponsorship of the Rescue Helicopter, sponsorship of the HB Business Awards, participation on the HB Chamber of Commerce and Business HB along with community support over the greater Hawkes Bay region.

What have been some of the toughest challenges you’ve faced?
Responding to the need to ensure from the managing director’s desk that our employees and contractors are secure both in terms of their financial position as well as their family needs. Stable employment conditions are key to this objective, with many staff working with the company for more than 20 years.

In 2013 the company posted an operating loss, which resulted in a need to review some conditions. This was a difficult time but the outcome has seen ongoing security for all.

Health and safety performance remains an ongoing challenge and is a continuous process as the risks, while minimised, remain high in various parts of the business.

What are the things you’re personally proud of in your involvement with Pan Pac?
Participating in and then providing for sustained growth of a greenfield development in my home region with the securing of shareholder support not only for the region but also for the country.

The respect for our company amongst the local community, suppliers, customers and local and national government has had to be earned and feedback indicates that it is there.

What’s the future look like for Pan Pac?

Pan Pac has a bright future with substantial regional log resources available with staff and plant capability strengthening across the board.

Adaptability of products for markets will always be needed; however, the use of a sustainably managed resource will assist in expansion of the existing base.

Are there any transformations on the horizon?

It’s always a difficult call; for example, the advent of the smartphone has decimated demand in Japan for newsprint (the end use of Pan Pac pulp) and saw a significant $70 million development to make a higher-quality pulp for markets in China and India. The transition was successful yet demand patterns are still volatile.

On another front, a recent visit to China saw the use of 3D printed veneers being applied to doors, which could enable substitution of the frame to our lumber.

The management of carbon issues both for forestry and energy has new focus.

What does retirement look like for you?

The freedom to make the call on how my time is spent. As I approach my 70th birthday, it feels right to pass on my corporate responsibilities and to explore (and in some cases complete) new projects involving family and friends.