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Joanna Davies meets Andrew Hayton, Auckland's new harbourmaster and the man in charge of our marine workspace and playground.

After two weeks of negotiations with Auckland Council for a time to meet our new harbourmaster, I finally secure an interview.

Of course, he's very busy - people to meet, meetings to be held - but he found time on Wednesday around 10am to chat.

When choosing a place to meet, I had more trouble. "We'd like to meet Andrew at the mini-golf course on Tamaki Drive," I emailed the communications team which deals with these sorts of requests.


"We would just like to go somewhere that's a bit out of context to make for a more interesting interview, and it has a nice view of the harbour."

Several hours later, I get a reply. "Due to the serious nature of Andrew's statutory role we feel the Marine Rescue Centre would be a more appropriate setting for the interview and photo opportunity on this occasion."

From the time spent just organising this interview, I was expecting to meet a harbourmaster who was wearing a tie, organiser in hand, slightly distracted by his extremely busy schedule. Instead, Andrew Hayton is quite relaxed, wearing a windbreaker and sitting in the corner of a busy shared office with impressive views of Waitemata Harbour.

He opens the door into a conference room where the Coastguard holds classes; the desks are printed with nautical maps. I ask why he didn't want to play mini-golf.

"I didn't really mind, but the powers-that-be thought an interview here would be better," he says, sounding like he would have enjoyed the change of pace.

Mr Hayton has been on the job less than a month, rushing between meetings with different council organisations and other members of the boating community.

"Driving a desk is very different to driving a boat," he says. "I think I've been out on the water once in the last two-and-a-half weeks."

That's a long time on land for the former cruise ship captain, who has spent his summers on the Mediterranean and winters in the Caribbean.


"I definitely want to get on the water more once I've settled in."

Coming from sailing in exotic parts of the world to watching over Auckland's harbours seems like a big lifestyle change, and Mr Hayton is already noticing it.

"The commute is a lot longer. When you're on-board you have a 10-second walk from your cabin to the bridge, but now I've got a 35-minute drive," he says. "I live in Karaka so I leave early to miss the traffic, but I haven't got too many complaints about the traffic yet."

Mr Hayton went to sea when he was 16, the first from his English family to do so.

"My first voyage was with P&O on one of their cargo ships, and we sailed down to Auckland on that trip."

From there he completed a four-year apprenticeship with the cargo shipping division, completing his second-mate courses and working on the Holland America Line's cruise fleet, carrying 1300 passengers on each voyage.

He joined the former Maritime Safety Authority as a marine accident investigator for a few years before wanting to go back to sea. "At that point I still hadn't been a ship's captain and that was always a goal for me."

He became captain of the Wind Surf, Windstar Cruise Ships' largest vessel with five masts and 308 passengers.

"When I first started out my path was pretty clear. You do your apprenticeships and work your way up until you become captain - it's a very natural path but, after that, you start thinking, 'where to next?'.

"I wanted to do something with all of the nautical knowledge I've gained, but there aren't many jobs on land for ex-ship captains."

A shore job means more time with his young family.

"I met my wife, who is a Kiwi, about 15 years ago. We have a 20-month-old daughter, so it's harder to be at sea for long periods now."

As harbourmaster, Mr Hayton is in charge of keeping Auckland's three harbours safe for commercial and recreational vessels.

He's yet to figure out the major initiatives for the upcoming summer season, but the emphasis will continue to be on boating safety and the lifejacket message.

"There is a lot happening around the waterfront during the [Rugby] World Cup as well, so we are just starting to have talks to see how we can be a part of that. It's still too early to say what things we will be focusing on over the summer."

His office is in charge of responding to oil spills in the harbour, mooring management and patrolling and regulating the harbour. The challenge for Mr Hayton will be making sure he gets enough variety.

"On a ship, no two days are the same, but at least now I won't have to deal with difficult passengers.

"From what I've heard from people in the office, we don't get too much trouble out on the water and people know who we are and what we're trying to do."

Winter is an ideal time to take over the job from long-serving harbourmaster John Lee-Richards. "There aren't as many people out on the water at the moment so it means I can sit down and learn the ropes."

Before we leave, he details the rest of his day. "We've got some oil-spill contingency planning to do this morning, and then there is a meeting with the council in Three Kings this afternoon."

I wish him luck on getting back onto the water. It sounds like he's going to need it.