Former RMBA president looks back on challenges faced


By Simon Barber


As we near our Constructive and Members Conference in Wellington — and the end of my term leading the RMBA — I’ve taken time to reflect on my role as president and the challenges ahead.

In a process that began in 2012, the successful integration of 22 local associations into one merged national association means we are now able to take a more outward focus.

Members from the original working group and the RMBA and MBS Boards, took time out recently to catch up over dinner and celebrate the completion of the merger.

David Fabish was instrumental in this process, and it was fitting to acknowledge his tireless work and passionate contribution to the merged organisation.


Elevate well received

We have placed a lot of resource into membership benefits that help our members build better businesses.

The Elevate online training portal has been well received by our members.

A member approached me at a meeting in Tauranga and said that Elevate was the single best thing that has happened to the RMBA in 30 years.

It is well worth a look for business owners and their teams as you negotiate work-life balance, develop success principles, high performance culture, contracts, pricing (with all Ashley Hartley’s work now included), retentions, health and safety, and sales and marketing, amongst other relevant information.

For more information, visit

Our flagship events — the House of the Year, Apprentice of the Year, the New Zealand Commercial Project Awards, and Constructive — have continued to grow in stature.

Entry numbers are up, and we have made refinements to keep these events operating in an industry-leading capacity.

It is particularly pleasing to see new entrants succeeding in the House of the Year competition, and the growing team involvement in the New Zealand Commercial Project Awards.

We have worked hard regarding communication between local branches and presidents, and our RMBA Board and national support office.

Our telcos with branch presidents after Board meetings were introduced by former president John MacDonald, and continue to bridge the gap.


Passionate membership

I have enjoyed getting around the country and meeting with members. I think we underestimate what we do as a group and, clearly, there are plenty of passionate members across the country.

At one memorable meeting in Taupo, the local executive apologised to me for their poor turnout. I had to tell them that, actually, 40% of their membership were present!

There is plenty of new blood coming through our leadership, and the dynamic of the presidents meetings has changed markedly over the past 10 years.

Many are younger than me, and the conversation has changed from local dispute details to asking what our digital strategy is, and how are we planning for future speed of change?


Charitable fundraising events great to see

It is always great to see the effort locally, with recent events such as North Harbour raising big money for KidsCan, and Hawkes Bay running a successful Men’s Health evening, with Mike King speaking on mental health, and four medical specialists covering the variety of cancer issues that affect us.

Both these initiatives can be shared elsewhere in the country.


Complex issues

Our industry is operating at levels not seen in recent times. With this workload comes the associated issues of capacity, delays and rising costs.

We as an industry have a mixed approach to managing our risk. The issues are complex, and building is certainly the easy bit.

We all need to keep training — the good operators get this point and prosper.

The work stream is steady for the next five years, so we need to keep investing in our people and our businesses.

It’s a tough, but ultimately rewarding industry. I couldn’t have contributed to this role without the support and encouragement of my wife Belinda.

I am looking forward to spending some more time with my four school-age children, and am excited about continuing to grow my businesses and the people I work with.

I leave the organisation in good hands, and am thankful to have had the opportunity of being its president.

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