Darrell Back

After almost 50 years in the roofing industry, Darrell Back, the immediate past president of the NZMRM, has seen a lot of changes but he has always regarded his industry colleagues as “family”. As Darrell says, “As president I likened industry to a family – we are a unit that has strong ties to our suppliers and each other, and all this helps to provide for the heathy growth of our industry. If we are going to grow, then we must have a strong base.” And family is a big part of Darrell’s business – Taranaki Steelformers – with two of his four children – sons Chris and Brendon – working in the firm.

Born in 1947 at Patea, Darrell grew up on a dairy and beef farm, and went to a country school before going on to St Pats Silverstream for three years. He then spent  five years  doing  a carpentry and joinery apprenticeship. 

Fifty years ago he married Beverley Norman – just before he entered rollforming in 1969 when he went to work for Gerald Burton at L G Pope & Son, which  he managed for the next 10 years. “At that time, I was  involved with the earlier Roofing and Cladding Association and also the Spouting and Downpipe Association. Those where great times. We used to sit down and set  the retail price and then we would go to the nearest  bar for some serious and meaningful discussion – and then try not to miss our flight home.

“It was a different time; not regulated with all the bull we have today.”

After working at L G Pope & Son, Darrell spent three years with SteelPro before starting Taranaki Steelformers in 1983.

Brian Cosgrove, who was on the NZMRM executive for 23 years and helped to write the Metal Roofing Code of Practice, remembers those times well. Brian, who served two years as President and is an NZMRM Life Member, says, “My memories of Darrell Back go right back to the early 1970s when he was working for a friend of ours called Gerald Burton at L G Pope & Son Ltd in Stratford. Gerald Burton was on the inaugural Executive of the NZMRM back in 1967, previously known as the Corrugated Iron Association of New Zealand, which was set up by Ted Howarth of Dimond Industries as its first President.

“When Darrell set up his own longrun iron business, it was not long before he became a member of the Executive and started taking a strong interest in the needs and direction of the Association for the future success of manufacturing a quality steel roofing product for the New Zealand market.”

Brian adds, “Darrell Back was a strong driving force for our Association and continued the direction set up by the Executive Committees over the earlier years in encouraging all members to attend the Annual Conferences, which were extremely well supported over many years, with over 75 per cent attendance in most years. Darrell, with his wife Beverley, son Chris and daughter-in-law Kirsty were all great supporters and promoted the Association as one big family and achieved great support from all members of the Association throughout New Zealand. 

“We all thank you Darrell for your tireless efforts in keeping our Association in good heart and making sure we have high standards of quality and professionalism out in the market.”

Tony Barbarich, also an NZMRM Life Member, says he first met Darrell in the mid-1980s during the early days of his rollforming business. “He became President of the then-Metal Roofing and Cladding Manufacturers Association in 1989 and with some short breaks in between was President until 2013.

“Darrell has been an extremely strong supporter of the Association and a great advocate for the industry. He has never let his own business interests come ahead of the industry interests when working on Association matters.”

Tony says that Darrell has never been shy in expressing his opinion on any matter, and has argued his case strongly when required but always for the betterment of the industry.

“He led the industry response when there was an issue with paint fade which resulted in a very satisfactory conclusion for all concerned,” Tony says. “Darrell was a keen supporter of the Annual Conference and has been the organiser of conferences for many years.”

Darrell says that in all the 49 years he has been involved with rollforming he has also been in the various forms of its industry associations over that period.

“I was president of the NZMRM for 19 years from 1994 until 2014 with one year off in between. Tony Barbarich then became President before he planned to retired,” he says. “It’s noted that Tony is still on the executive so I do not know what happened to retirement.”

He adds, “During my time of President we decided to become more pro-active as an association and become leaders not followers. We set out to produce a Code of Practice which was to lay out best practice in roofing. This has been very successful and is widely used by all in the industry today.

“We believed that the fixing side of our industry should have some form of association and provided funds to set up RANZ, which has grown to be a driving force  in roof fixing.

“I believe that a well-run MRM will create a strong industry as it is a marriage  between the producer – the rollformers – and the suppliers to the industry.” The business that Darrell started 35 years ago, Taranaki Steelformers, is now a major part of the region’s building industry.

Taranaki Steelformers has sons Chris and Brendon managing different branches and is a company proud of its reputation for high quality products that can enhance architecturally designed homes but also withstand anything the Taranaki weather and environment can throw at them.

The company has deep roots in the district and sponsors rugby and racing, as well as helping to fund rescue helicopters.

Darrell describes wife Beverly as his “rock” and they have enjoyed watching their family develop over the years. He says, “I have watched my children grow and followed them around the world. Now I watch my grandchildren and follow them – not that Bev and I need an excuse; we love travelling on land or sea. “At the moment we have a grandson who is doing very well in cross country longer distance running and we have just returned from Paris after watching him run in the world secondary schools cross country and expect to spend lots more time watching him.”

One of Darrell’s other great loves is cars. “Bev will tell you that I am unable to leave them standard,” he says. “I do things like increase power and change the wheels.
“We have a campervan which we travel around in with a Smart car towed behind. In the shed I have a fully worked 1970 Ford Fairmont and have just purchased  a 1996 MGR V8 soft top.”

Darrell says he has got back just as much from the NZMRM as he has put in. “I have enjoyed my time in the association and the people I have met over the years, and have many fond memories.”