Rob Teina is a successful plumber, keen outdoorsman, and part-time actor. Nick Jones caught up with him to find out more.

I first met Rob when he came out on a fishing charter with a mutual friend in the building trade. It quickly became apparent he was a charismatic, social plumber who worked hard and enjoyed a good time. The next time I saw him was when he popped up on a TV ad for Lotto – a man of many talents! I just had to find out more, so caught up with Rob on a miserable late spring day at his offices in New Lynn to the west of Auckland city. We didn’t actually start the interview for over an hour as a steady procession of employees and mates in the trades came and went, exchanging both business chat and banter.

No doubt Rob’s gregarious nature holds him in good stead for running a plumbing business, but his entry into the industry was by chance. Even though his dad was a builder, by his own admission he didn’t even know what a plumber was when he went for an interview with a plumbing company. He had left Avondale College prematurely, and the day he left school his mum surprised him with a bill for $100 rent per week. This quickly led to a job at the Italian Stone factory in New Lynn, paying $9 per hour. The factory owner saw some talent in Rob and set him up with the plumbing interview.

Rob reckons he’s never looked back, and by the age of 24 he knew he wanted to have his own business. He achieved this by 28, with an interluding Europe OE. He started off his company with a single job, $3,000 in the bank, and the news that his lovely wife Violet was pregnant with their first child. He backed himself, however, and his business Supreme Plumbing has grown from Rob and his right-hand man Graham Luli to 10 employees, a warehouse and an office in New Lynn.

With plenty of system designing, calls coming in, meetings and site visits, Rob doesn’t spend much time on the tools anymore but enjoys it when he gets the opportunity. 

As the business name suggests, he doesn’t compromise on quality – his motto being “cheap work ain’t good and good work ain’t cheap”. He obviously thrives on relationships in the wider building industry and gets lots of referrals through friends. He says he also enjoys the special camaraderie plumbers share through “being in the shit together”.

Being a father to two kids keeps him busy at home too, and he reckons moving his office away from home was a great move – he can fully switch off from work when he gets home in order to enjoy family time. He mentioned that he sees a lot of his younger self in his little boy – cheeky but always getting away with it!

His dad was born and raised in Rarotonga, and he makes it over there to visit every year. I asked him the obvious question about the fishing, and he said he’s never actually been fishing in Rarotonga. Apparently whenever he turns up the wider family hustle him to fix up all their plumbing and install their solar systems!

He has fond memories of going fishing with his old man out on Auckland’s west coast, where his dad would continue fishing long into the
night after taking a sleeping Rob back to the van. He loves getting out for a fish when he can, participating in the plumbers’ fishing competition on Motutapu Island or out chasing the workups.

Rob’s also done his fair share of hunting – either heading out with mates after hearing their weekend yarns on-site or when visiting Violet’s family farm in Te Awamutu. He recalled one trip where he and another city slicker went out pig hunting in Thames Valley with some hardcore blokes. Firstly, the hardcore pot-bellied bushwhackers left Rob for dead – apparently playing rugby league for the Mt Albert club counted for nothing out on the hills. Then, after some pigs were dispatched and it was time for the carry-out, his friend from Auckland pulls out a big black rubbish sack, complete with precut head and armholes, and puts it on to try to keep his clothes clean!

And we finally got to the most important question – how did Rob end up on the Lotto TV ad as the husband of the lady who finds her lost ticket when her arm-cast is taken off? A director attending Rob’s best friend’s wedding was so entertained by Rob’s best man speech that he tracked Rob down for a casting. Rob was keen and ended up getting one of the lead roles.

Watch this space, as Rob alluded that there might be more to come soon!

Article by: Nick Jones