Fletcher Building chiefs faced questions about controversial housing developments, Firth's weak concrete, corporate earnings, Christchurch asbestos issues, community engagement and asset writedowns at the company's annual meeting in Auckland yesterday.
Protesters angry about 480 residences planned for Mangere's Ihumatao stonefields area gathered outside the SkyCity Convention Centre to distribute flyers before the meeting, attended by just under 400 shareholders.
Nikki Elder told the board about the Ihumatao area's significant history, encouraged directors to visit the stonefields and pleaded for areas to be protected.
"I know housing is an issue but so is our heritage," she said.
Chairman Ralph Norris said the company had consulted the local iwi and the mana whenua and a consent hearing was scheduled for February.
Before the meeting, Fletcher housing chief operating officer Steve Evans said the residences would not be built on the stonefields and he acknowledged cultural and geological significant areas, adjacent to the housing sites.
Three Kings United Group president Garry Bryant questioned the board about consultation on plans for up to 1500 houses in the local quarry, said the Puketapapa Local Board was "disappointed" about Fletcher's proposals, and asked about the firm's community engagement and how its board had been involved.
Mark Adamson, Fletcher chief executive, responded: "Consultation is just that. It's not negotiation. We have a responsibility to the share- holders who own it to develop it, he said of the former Winstone facility.
"We have a responsibility to Auckland," he said, referring to the Housing Accord's target of 39,000 consents and sections. "So our obligation is to consult, not negotiate."
Other shareholders asked about significant asset writedowns but Adamson said he had not purchased a single asset since becoming chief executive, but now had to deal with a difficult legacy, quitting non-performing or under-performing assets bought in the past few years.
"In my time in the job, we have not made one single acquisition." Many assets were bought 10 years ago "and I have to deal with what we have today. Profitability is improving, maybe not as fast as anyone would like".
Shareholder Coralie van Camp asked why the firm had not promoted winning the Convention Centre construction project, but Adamson said Fletcher had won many new jobs, including Precinct Properties' 35-level Downtown tower and a number of roading and prison contracts.
Another shareholder criticised Fletcher's handling of Christchurch asbestos issues, Firth's weak concrete and comments by Fletcher's Graham Darlow, who said in relation to the Christchurch rebuild: "There might be a few where we can't find the contractor - maybe they've gone out of business, maybe they've gone back to Ireland."
Adamson said asbestos issues had plagued many businesses but he acknowledged testing regimes early in the Christchurch rebuild were not as robust as they should have been.
The cement issue was "very unfortunate" and the result of mechanical failures by a machine manufacturer, Adamson said. "We stood beside every single cubic metre of concrete and made sure we stayed close to the customers, who are very satisfied. Sometimes in life, things go wrong."
He defended Darlow, who, he said, had "gone through some extremely tough interviews and had not put a foot wrong".
In response to questions about PlaceMakers' poor ranking in a consumer survey, Adamson said that it mainly catered for tradespeople, who ranked it extremely highly.