Business heroes: Auckland Airports Adrian Littlewoods patience with a purpose

Adrian Littlewood has been at New Zealand’s pandemic front line, and what he learned there has helped to shape the country’s response.

As Auckland Airport’s chief executive, Littlewood has lived with the threat of Covid-19 at his business around the clock, ever since it first emerged in early 2020.

Last month he left the job he has held for nine years, having stayed longer than planned in order to help get the company through the first phases of the pandemic.

During the past year he has quietly worked to nudge, cajole and encourage theGovernment and its agencies towards new ways of dealing with it.

And while there was a note of frustration in his final message to the Government, where he mirrored the feelings of many in urging the ditching of MIQ for fully-vaccinated Kiwis this side of Christmas, Littlewood has personified patience with a purpose.

He was early to join aviation working groups to explain the logistics of changes at the border.

The idea of quarantine-free transtasmantravel was first mooted in marathon financial rescue package talks for the ravaged business in April 2020, and started a year later.

The bubble was punctured by Delta in Sydney, which in turn leaked into New Zealand after a failure thought to be at one of the Government’s riskily located central Auckland MIQ providers. Littlewood believes the bubble concept was a sound one, and when launched by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was in accordance with the health advice of the time.

And while the Government was slow to roll out mass vaccinations and its health agenciesappeared unaware that for months rapid-fire jabs were being administered overseas in places such as carparks, Auckland Airport was quick to offer its underused Park&Ride facility for that purpose.

Days after Delta was discovered in Auckland, thousands of people began getting drive-through vaccinations at the Park&Jab facility. So far, more than 132,000 injections have been administered there. Some recipients were further encouraged by another initiative in which the airport and other businesses put up $200,000 in prizes, with a big chunk of that aimed at South Auckland schools.

The airport’s Park&Ride buses were also made available to vaccinators targeting areas where jab rates were low.

Littlewood’s company has taken a leadership role with its tough line on vaccination for its own staff, bringing forward those requirements for front line workers ahead of Government deadlines and introducing new rules requiring all new staff to be vaccinated.

Littlewood is among a growing number of people who believe a Royal Commission is needed to review the Government’s response to the pandemic.

The airport has also been a leader with testing. In addition to fortnightly nasal pharyngeal PCR tests, operational staff are having twice-weekly saliva tests. As well, it has been among a coalition of major New Zealand businesses which have supported the trial of rapid antigen testing in workplaces.

The group helped persuade the Government to accept this approach to surveillance testing, with the kits finally being made available more widely to businesses and being rolled out in pharmacies from the middle of this month.


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