A month into the tenure of our new CEO, it is no surprise that everything continues to run exceedingly well! It was great news indeed that our own Matt Rutter came to the fore, ahead of a competitive national search.
It is opportune for our cooperative that through his role as General Manager of Marketing and Business Development over the past four years, Matt has gained a deep understanding of our co-operative, the markets and the nuances of our industry. This coupled with the smooth and effective handover from Wayne Hosking, made for a seamless transition between CEOs.
At this time, it is appropriate that we recognise the tremendous contribution that Wayne Hosking has made to the culture and success of GFC, and to the Western Rock Lobster Industry in general.
When Wayne began as GFC’s Research Officer in 1995, the live lobster market was becoming more significant, but was constrained by lobster quality. There was a huge task ahead to educate our skippers in how better to handle their catch, which Wayne tackled with gusto and aplomb. This resulted in significant improvements in the health and quality of lobsters in boats, in GFC’s tanks, and logistics.
He so impressed the board, that when a new CEO was needed in July 2002, Wayne was offered the position without going to market. A brave call, as although he was very strong scientifically, Wayne had no managerial, financial or marketing background. The rest, as they say, is history!
When he began, GFC had a turnover of $97 million and received less than 1900 tonnes of lobster, a 22% market share. In sixteen years Wayne has grown that to a market share of 62% and a turnover approaching $400 million.
The challenges started in his first year at the helm, the industry had to contend with the SARs virus, and the processing sector was extremely competitive. Although GFC already had a presence in the south, Wayne drove the establishment of the Fremantle office and recruitment in C Zone. This proved to be crucial in our success in subsequent years.
As CEO Wayne continued GFC’s industry leading research into lobster quality and continuous improvement under Dr Glen Davidson and drove innovation in new products to try and earn that extra dollar for members. The processing sector was undergoing rationalisation including four joining forces under one banner at Westar. In late 2007 Wayne engineered a takeover of Westar. This led to GFC processing over 5600 tonnes of lobster and becoming by far the major player in the industry.
The very next year, the puerulus count was abnormally low and industry had to accept massive reductions in catch for the long term. This required GFC to downsize to remain competitive, a difficult task, which Wayne handled with a strong resolve and empathy.
He also ramped up his industry advocacy and in many meetings with the fisheries minister convinced him that a very conservative approach was the solution. Wayne’s advice was often contrary to what the minister was receiving from his own department and it was a credit to Wayne that it was accepted. It was exactly what the industry needed to navigate the crisis.
The puerulus situation hastened the transition to quota and Wayne again led the debate into its parameters. Recognising that GFC was exposed to any quota fraud, he pushed extremely hard for a strong compliance regime. Wayne also identified that tier grading and selling lobsters per grade could unlock significant value for fishers. Under pressure from both inside and outside GFC, he implemented the system with immediate benefit.
In 2014 Wayne’s advocacy continued within both the state and federal governments to work towards the China Australia Free Trade Agreement, including being invited to be part of a delegation to China with then Trade Minister Andrew Robb. He worked hard for GFC and industry, to ensure that rock lobster wasn’t negotiated out of the initial agreement.
As these negotiations advanced, so too did GFC’s marketing abilities. Under Wayne’s guidance, and Matt Rutter’s direction, the Marketing & Business Development Department grew stronger including a number of English/Mandarin/Cantonese speaking staff, a Wholly Owned Foreign Entity, GFC China, with an office in Guangzhou, and lobster holding hubs in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. We have a General Manager in China, Chinese staff running the hubs and our Brolos brand now is widely recognised in the Chinese market.
To better service the China operations, increase quality and shorten the supply chain it was clear that GFC needed another facility near the Perth International Airport. Two years of design, construction and commissioning went into our Welshpool facility, the jewel in the GFC crown. Wayne played a very hands-on role in all areas and at all levels. It clearly would not have happened without him.
Perhaps one of Wayne’s greatest achievements in his time at GFC and one he would be extremely proud of is the safety culture, which is now best practice. He drove this from the top down and has left this legacy to build on going forward throughout the whole organization.
Although he was never a shareholder, he made decisions as if GFC was his business, and that, along with strong personal traits such as respect, honesty, integrity, a strong moral compass and bold decision-making made for an excellent relationship between board and management.
On behalf of the board and the whole membership base, I would like to thank Wayne Hosking for his very significant contribution to the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative, and wish him all the very best for his future endeavours.