Ben Crawford reveals why the former plant manager at Fonterra’s Canpac shifted his family of four across New Zealand to join Azwood Energy as one of 15 newly created strategic roles in the Nelson-based renewable energy organisation.
Azwood Energy, New Zealand’s leading supplier of carbon neutral, renewable wood energy, has surpassed 65% growth in the past 12 months. The 15 newly created strategic recruitments in production and management is an endorsement of potential being realised in the bioenergy sector.
Azwood’s investment in talent and capability also reflects the Nelson-based organisation’s consistent gains in new business and market share, as well as the pursuit of substantial business goals over the next five years. Goals which will see Azwood supplying some of New Zealand’s largest energy users with renewable, carbon neutral fuel – increasing public benefit through lower carbon emissions.
Alongside new Executive Operations Manager Ben Crawford, Azwood also welcomed former Bunnings Store Manager Ben Homan as Solutions Manager and Marketing Manager Jonathan McKeown, who previously led the content campaigns for Australasia’s largest digital marketing agency. Other key acquisitions also include a chief engineer, production manager, resource manager, finance manager and Christchurch depot manager.
It is the story of Crawford, however, that best reflects the personal commitment to an ideal and an organisation, that has seen a highly successful senior manager move a family of four from Hamilton to Nelson to lead operations for a clean energy company.
“I grew up in Taupo, and I’ve always had an affinity for the forest,” said Crawford. “My dad would take me out tramping and I really enjoyed that time, soaking in the environments of New Zealand.”
It was a sentiment that stuck with him as he built a successful career in the dairy industry and put down roots in Hamilton, with wife Tracy and children Samantha (13) and Nathan (11).
While Crawford formed many close friendships with “salt-of-the-earth” people in dairy country he always felt something “didn’t quite sit right”.
“I enjoyed my work at Fonterra. It was challenging. But after three years in a relatively high-pressure corporate environment I was looking for that balance with my family while the kids were young.
It is important to me to be able to spend that time with family, in the beautiful environments we have here.”
The job advertisement said Azwood is a company that takes pride in caring for its people and the New Zealand environment and that is essentially what peaked the highly skilled manager’s interest.
Azwood Energy flew Crawford down for an interview and when that progressed well they invited his entire family to spend time in the top of the South on their own.
“We were just blown away with the Nelson region,” said Crawford. “But there are not a lot of companies that would do that, invite your family to explore the area before we had committed to the roll. That demonstrated to me their genuine commitment to family values and confidence in what the Nelson region has to offer.”
Being part of a clean fuel company, with a strong environmental focus was also a strong drawcard for Crawford. It spoke to that young boy tramping through the forests with his father, appreciating family and nature.
“It was an easy decision, moving down here for lifestyle and a business with those core values that I share – family and New Zealand’s environmental future.”
One of Azwood Energy’s organisational goals is to help New Zealand transition to a lower carbon future by actively working to replace fossil fuels with renewable, low carbon wood energy.
For a business that started out in the energy sector as coal distributer almost 40 years ago, it was strong leadership and foresight that saw the business take a new direction at the turn of the century. And, investing in clean energy has seen the business embark on a dynamic period of growth.
“Working for a business that is growing and developing, I can use my skills and help to be a part of that,” said Crawford. “It is exciting. It feels like being part of a start-up that have core values of family and strong value for the environment and making the most of what we have.
“And with wood being a strong, cost-comparative alternative to burning fossil fuels – that people are more conscious about their negative impact on the environment – it just feels like we are on the edge of doing something great.”
Add the lofty work goals to the fact that weekends are spent with the family in the Able Tasman or Kahurangi National Parks, at the Nelson Lakes or the Marlborough Sounds and Crawford said it was a shift that sits just right.
“After 16 years in the dairy industry in Hamilton, it feels like we are on this great adventure.”