Rod Newbold, Life Member, MRM

Roofing specialist, hunter, and tramper Rod Newbold was born on the Auckland’s North Shore in 1953. He went to Rangitoto College, which was very new and small at the time — and so was he.

“I played rugby for Rangitoto 1st fifteen for over three years, and if you’ve seen me run, you’ll know how bad our 1st fifteen was,” says Rod.

Rod got his first job at Odlins, stacking timber for $1.44 an hour. He was so impressed with his new found wealth he filled the gas tank of his VW beach buggy for the first time in his life.
“Driving over the bridge afterwards, a $10 note flew into my windscreen, then another one and then a whole bunch…Yes, I left my wallet on the bonnet,” says Rod with his trademark self-deprecating laugh.
From stacking timber, he progressed (reluctantly) to an office position at Odlins and later worked a coordinator for a large concrete placing company, managing the movements of some of the county’s first concrete pumps. AB Bricks owned the concrete company, and Rod ended up at the brickworks. There he worked in sales and the various production departments.

Getting into the rollforming industry happened almost despite himself. 

“I was offered, and decided to turn down, a job at Fletcher Brownbuilt.” While waiting to talk to the interviewer, I realised the jobs I enjoyed most were “…shit jobs but for an appreciative boss.” By the time the interviewer came to the phone Rod realised he got on well with him and changed his mind.

At the age of 22, Rod ended up in the rollforming industry and he has been there ever since.
While working in production in Auckland, Rod was appointed sales representative when Fletcher Brownbuilt bought a rollformer in Tauranga. “On one of my first calls I timidly called into Tauranga Plumbing, because I knew they did a bit of roofing,” says Rod. “They told me Fletcher reps come in one door and out that bastard (referring to the exit). I must have handled that okay because I did business with three generations of McCords.”

Rod says, “I started a family at this time, and money was tight. Houses may have been cheap, but mortgages were hard to get, and interest, when you did, was over 12%.  I did a lot of extra jobs including waiting at Pizza Hut, commercial cleaning, roofing, possum trapping and painting. My mantra was, ‘One income, two kids, three mortgages and four jobs.’

After ten years, eventually ending up as regional sales manager in Wellington, Rod accepted a role as branch manager for Balfours in Wellington. Balfours, a private company, was sold to McConnel Dowell, they sold it to BHP and finally Steel & Tube bought the company.

He filled various roles for Steel & Tube all over the country and ended his Steel & Tube days as Commercial Manager, Roofing. 
In late 2017 Rod joined NZ Steel in his current role as Product Launch Manager.

Steel & Tube colleague Tony Rallis (Technical Manager, Roofing, Steel & Tube) says he has the highest regard for Rod, both professionally and personally. “I’ve known Rod for twenty years, and worked closely with him for ten of those,” he says.

“Rod is technically and commercially very astute. He is very customer focussed and concerned with doing the right thing. I remember years ago an elderly couple had been seriously let down by a roofer and they were suffering from illness and circumstances were not in their favour. Rod went around and arranged a roofer and materials from NZ Steel. He sorted out the whole mess at no cost to them,” says Tony.

People who meet Rod remember him, says long-time friend Rex Harkin, retired owner of Harkin Roofing in Tauranga.  When I introduced him to my partner, she said: “where did you meet that delightful man?”

“We met over forty years ago when he was Tauranga Branch Manager of Fletcher Brownbuilt (now Dimond Industries) and I was one of his customers. One time, he had done a personal favour for a guy who paid him something like $500. Rod regarded it as a bit of a backhander. So, he insisted on buying all the beer and food for the night for a group of us and still had $50 left at the end of the night. He stuck it in a newspaper vending machine.” Rod says: “It was the first $50 note I had ever seen, and no doubt the first one the paper boy had ever seen.”
In 2016 Rod took part in a volunteer trip to Khunde, Nepal, to help them rebuild after an earthquake which destroyed 95% of the village. The building was at an altitude of 3800 metres, 76 metres higher than Mt Cook. “We built and clad the roof on the new community centre and started work on the interior, leaving behind donated tools for them to continue the job,” says Rod.

One the team got acute altitude sickness and had to be airlifted out, but Rod joined some other team members and climbed to Everest Base Camp at 5300 metres.

“I went again the following year. This time I was doing mortise and tenon window sashes with handsaw and chisel, using skills I was taught in Intermediate in 1965.”

Rod is a longstanding member of the NZMRM Technical Committee and heads the team that is revising the MRM Code of Practice. He says, “as I grew more confident, I had many debates with Stuart Thomson, so it was an honour when he offered me the reins for revising the Code of Practice.  Of course, with Stuart, I was never going to win any of those debates, but at least he knew I cared.” The debates and showing he cared resulted in Rod spending uncountable hours with Stuart Thomson, while Stuart taught him and groomed him to be heir to Code of Practice.

Rod doesn’t calculate his achievements in money and he isn’t a clock watcher—the results count.“My ethics can be condensed into work hard and be honest.”

Rex Harkin agrees. “Rod is the most honest person I’ve ever met. He is not 99% honest; he is absolutely 100% honest,” he says.

Rod continues, “My advice to workers is to find a job you enjoy and do it as well as you can. My advice to employers is to appreciate your workers’ efforts and to keep them learning. Any day I learn something is a Good Day, and I have still got plenty to learn. 
Throughout my time in the industry, I have met a lot of characters and learnt from many people. My current role as Product Launch Manager for NZ Steel allows me to interact with a broad range of people within the industry which is something I cherish. 

When I was awarded Life Membership of the Association, I was shocked and honoured so much I was unable to give a coherent thanks to those present. Thanks again, guys.”