Rob and I had a relationship like many Auckland friendships, it grew from our work positions.
Like all relationships it built on areas of commonality; in our case it was a passion for the Pacific, the fact we both were from somewhere outside of Auckland — and Rugby.
We very quickly got Rob involved in the Pacific Chairs Committee, a meeting of CEOs, Chairmen and Government officials working in the Pacific. Rob was a great addition although I think at times he felt the pace was perhaps a little slow.
We also shared a colleague Mona Mato who was a Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) Trade Development Manager in Auckland and also a member of the Board of Pacific Business Trust (PBT). Mona was able to move easily and transparently between the two organisations without knowing that Rob and I shared the odd funny story at Mona s expense — always in a positive way Mona! (LOL)
Mona was also instrumental in establishing a very early meeting in Rob’s career at PBT for us both to share strategy and have a meeting of minds about how we could best work together. Rob was very positive and this meeting laid the foundations for a growing relationship.
PBT was one of our early targets for our Pasifika Shirt Friday campaign. Rob loved the concept and what was supposed to be a morning tea meeting of both teams turned into a full scale lunch. Mona may have had a hand in organising the catering!
Rob invited our team to attend and sit with a recipient of a traditional Samoan tattoo during a special hosting of tattooists at PBT. This was for me a unique experience and it was special to have Rob explain to us with such enthusiasm the culture of his beloved people.
I was only just beginning to know Rob and I liked a lot about him. He was fun, passionate and easy to work with. Our paths did not cross every day but we could see the potential for lots of joint partnerships.
Rachel Afeaki Taumoepeau would continue the role Mona played in being the link between our two organisations a role which both Rob and I saw as very valuable.
Just four days before Rob passed he called me to discuss PT&I’s ‘Hire from within’ policy. He thanked me for “hiring his people”. I was humbled by Rob’s passion for Pacific Island people but more humbled by the fact he picked up the phone to make that call.
Rob, you may not be here to put together the deals but you can guide the Strategy from Above!
The thoughts and prayers of many of us in Auckland are with Rob’s wife Marianne, children Zoe, Michael, Jessica, Kimberley and Andrew.
In the words of Matua Shane “a mighty Totara has fallen”.
PT&I Trade Commissioner