New boss for iconic Waikato building company

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Retiring director David Livingstone with a framed momento signed by all Livingstone NZ employees.

One of Waikato’s most well established building companies is set to head in another direction under a new chief executive.

With the pre-Christmas retirement of director David Livingstone who began with the company in 1977, former Mitre 10 MEGA executive Myles Whitcher is set to lead Livingstone NZ into a new era.

Myles’ appointment is described as a “bold statement” for the future direction of the 70-year-old company as he will bring his expertise, drive, and a new strategic focus.

Livingstone NZ Group directors, David Livingstone, Mike Livingstone, Peter Clarke and Andrew Riley were impressed with the calibre of the applicants for the chief executive role, but Myles’ breadth of experience and alignment with the company’s values, were a perfect match for them.

“Our focus is on our people and ensuring excellence at every opportunity. Bringing Myles on board is the next step for us in creating a legacy of leadership we can all be proud of”, says David Livingstone.

Myles explains his focus for the short-term is to build strong relationships with the Livingstone team, the Board, key clients, and to further develop the company’s strong culture.

He said he intended to concentrate on long-term business rather than short-term financial wins and investigating new technologies within the building industry to improve business efficiencies.

Myles has twenty-five years’ experience in business management, including seven years Board experience within a number of industries. He brings a wealth of knowledge in commercial operations, business governance and a proven track record in developing and leading high performing teams. Before joining Livingstone, Myles was the chief operating officer for Mitre 10 MEGA Hamilton.

“We have some ambitious plans for the next five years and are all very excited about the opportunities that exist within the company and the New Zealand construction industry”.

Livingstone has built a reputation nationally, through building award-winning projects in the commercial, industrial, residential, and rural markets, coupled with its maintenance division. Its team has built a number of iconic developments in the greater Waikato, such as The David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Templeview, the Avantidrome – Home of Cycling in Cambridge, The Lodge at Kinloch in Taupo, and the Ebbett Dealership in Hamilton East; to name just a few.

The Avantidrome near Cambridge, one of Livingstone NZ’s projects.

Myles says with a team of 250 personnel, Livingstone is at a size where it is big enough to compete at a national level, but small enough to “care about the finer details”.

Whitcher said the booming construction industry of recent years has allowed Livingstone to expand throughout the North Island, with branches in Waikato, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Auckland regions.

“This growth also comes with some challenges i.e., in sourcing staff, and the pressure on the sub-contracting community as well. Those guys are really stretched to capacity.”

He says the challenge is understanding the cycle of the industry and anticipating the peaks and troughs before they arrive. “If you get this wrong it can be catastrophic, as seen in the press over the last week”.

The company’s roots stem back to 1940s Te Awamutu and a company founded by the Cavanagh Brothers. Specialising in commercial, dairy company and public-sector work, the company was able to grow with a small team of local builders.

In the late 1970s David and Mike Livingstone – labourers at the time – joined the company. David joined Cavanagh’s first after walking away from his farm job and Mike joined soon after. Shortly after this, the teenagers both started carpentry apprenticeships.

Some of Livingstone NZ’s 250 staff.

The brothers seized their first big opportunity a few years later when at the age of 21 and 16 respectively, they were offered shares in the business. In 1982 the company became Cavanagh & Livingstone Bros Limited, as the brothers initially purchased 50 percent of Cavanagh Brothers and the balance in 1986, when the company then became Livingstone Bros Ltd. The sharemarket crash of 1987 had a profound effect on the construction industry and the brothers say it was the values learnt during this time that created the culture and helped Livingstone grow into the well-respected, national construction firm, we see today. It was relationships based on building excellence that allowed repeat business during the tough times.

“This culture enhanced and embraced by its people stand us in good stead to this day,” says David.

The company began catering to the wider commercial and residential demands of the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Taranaki regions, establishing an office in Hamilton in the 1990s to cater for growing demand. In 2010 a name change to Livingstone Building NZ reflected a nationwide expansion. By adapting to the market and meeting customer needs, the business continued to evolve and grow. Livingstone NZ now operates Livingstone Building NZ, Livingstone BOP, and TA Leasing. They are behind landmark developments across the country and through a dedicated apprenticeship training scheme, they continue to impart their skills and those of their predecessor, onto the sector.

David Livingstone’s retirement was announced at the company’s annual staff function on December 22.
David says he is looking forward to stepping away from an executive role and the day-to-day running of the business. He was presented with a framed image, signed by all Livingstone’s employees, and highlighting the company’s progression throughout the years.

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Geoff Taylor

Waikato Business News editor Geoff Taylor. Email: geoff@wbn.co.nz