They both grew up messing about on the water, and now they're doing it for a job. Meet the new Lake Taupo harbourmaster Heath Cairns, and deputy harbourmaster Toni Maulder.

Heath, the former deputy harbourmaster, took over the role from his predecessor Philip King on December 1, and Toni was appointed deputy harbourmaster shortly afterward.
Heath grew up on boats, with his father a long-time sailor and commercial fisherman. He entered the navy straight from school.

"I already had an older brother in the navy and an older brother in the army and when they would come home off leave, the navy stories sounded more entertaining than the army ones."

Heath trained as a electronics technician, transferring to navy diving after five years. But after 15 years, he had reached the highest rank he could and it was time to move to the next challenge, as a commercial dive instructor.


He says going from the navy to interacting with civilians was "a steep learning curve", not least because there was no yelling allowed and "the language was a bit tamer".

"It was good, it allowed me to develop more interpersonal skills as opposed to demanding things."

That was followed by a brief stint on offshore oil rigs then a position as a DoC fisheries ranger based in Turangi, before taking up the deputy harbourmaster position seven years ago. Heath also spent two years as a voluntary crew member on the Greenlea rescue helicopter.

He says joining the harbourmaster's office was a move back to things maritime.
"My whole career's been on or under the water and it seemed like a great opportunity to continue those skill sets that I had."

"The deputy [harbourmaster] oversees the day-to-day operation, whereas the harbourmaster is more of a managerial role co-ordinating the big picture items and any big projects that need to be done on the lake, like asset management plans, getting the budget bids for funding, upgrades to facilities, resource consents from the regional council, Tuwharetoa and affected hapu around the lake, all the relationships with stakeholders — district council, regional council, energy companies."

However, Heath says rather than a split in responsibilities between his new role and his deputy's, they will now be more combined.

"The deputy and the harbourmaster roles will be a lot more linked and cohesive ... rather than having one here and one there, it's about having a more collaborative approach and input."

Although Heath had been identified as a possible harbourmaster some time ago, he said it was not guaranteed and there was strong competition for the role.

"I was happy with that. The team needed the best person for the job."

While the harbourmaster's office has for several years been focused on facility upgrades and the construction of the new Motuoapa Marina, with the majority of those projects now complete, Heath will be focusing on navigation safety and regulatory patrols to ensure people are safe on the water. Part of the challenge is that many lake users come from outside the district and don't necessarily know the local rules.

"We have a new bylaw in place and we'll be educating on the main points of that this summer and we want to have a bigger presence at boat ramps."

Heath says being harbourmaster is "awesome" and he's "extremely rapt" to have Toni as deputy, who he describes as "thorough, articulate and professional".

"Together we can complement each other with what we already know and share those skills.

"I'm looking forward to moving forward with Toni and pushing our on-water presence. I know in my absence there will be no concerns with Toni taking over the reins."

Toni also grew up on water, with her father a keen yachtie on Lake Taupo. The family moved away when she was 12 and after leaving school she joined the army to become a chef, but eventually became an officer working in logistics.

She served for nearly eight years until a move into corporate life saw her working at New Zealand Post in Wellington where she met husband Glynn, a builder. The pair eventually decided to move to Taupo for the outdoors lifestyle.

Toni joined the harbourmaster's office four years ago as team administrator when the incumbent was on maternity leave.

"Once she came back I decided I didn't want to leave and there was a role available as a projects officer managing the big and small projects, picking up all the pieces that no one had time to do."

Toni's projects have included creating terms and conditions for berthing permits, developing an e-permit online system to purchase boat ramp permits, a marina management software system and instigating the Lake Taupo Harbourmaster's Facebook page. She says when she first considered applying for the deputy's position she wasn't sure she wanted to work fulltime. But Glynn and their children Zac, 13, and Summer, 11, encouraged her.

"It's a dream come true, really," Toni says. "I'm thrilled to be working alongside Heath who is so knowledgeable and confident with everything maritime and I learnt so much from Philip who never shied away from a challenge and was the master in forging strong relationships with stakeholders.

It's a real privilege and an honour to be in the position of managing the safety of the lake users. My children were so pleased that they spent three hours as a surprise making and decorating around 30 cupcakes saying 'Mum is deputy harbourmaster'."