Wednesday, 12 August 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

A genuine good guy serving the community for more than 50 years

It was Labour Weekend 1969 when 23-year-old Robbie Yeomans took the plunge and began his life as a local self-employed plumber. His total assets consisted of an old Austin A55 van, the bare essentials in plumbing gear and a very modest bank account.

Whitianga’s population at the time was less than a thousand people and the roads either side of town were all metal. Qualified plumbers were in short supply and Robbie, originally from the lower North Island town of Greytown, was encouraged by his parents, who were residing in Whitianga at the time, to have a go on his own. Overnight, the number of registered plumbers in town went from two to three.  

It turned out to be sound advice from his folks with Yeomans Plumbing (these days trading as Mercury Bay Plumbing & Drainage) soon up and running and thriving in an ever-expanding local community. “Within five years I had purchased my own section in town where I built my first workshop, followed by a house, invested in much needed sheet metal bending and cutting equipment and was also happily married,” says Robbie.

Lynne Yeomans was from a local Whitianga family when she first met Robbie. “We tied the knot 45 years ago and have raised three children, two sons - Anthony and James - and a daughter - Roseanne - along the way,” she says. Over the years, Robbie and Lynne have tasted a bit of everything living in the Mercury Bay area, including a spell owning a small farm in Coroglen and a property in Purangi. Once that was flushed out of the system (excuse the pun), the family moved back into Whitianga in the early 1990s. 

Home and happiness for Robbie has always been a roof over his and his family’s heads and a good size shed for his business requirements. To say he doesn’t throw much away would be an understatement with his current workshop and office filled with gear and tools that date back many decades.

As cluttered as it looks, Robbie claims he knows where everything is and it’s all within easy reach. Even the old sheet metal bending and cutting equipment which is now redundant in the world of modern plumbing still has pride of place on the workshop floor and is going nowhere fast.   

But Robbie’s 50 years on the tools and playing a significant role in the development of Whitianga isn’t just where this story starts and ends. Robbie is one of the town’s genuine good guys, a man eager to help others, never seeking the limelight and always wanting and helping others to succeed. Over the years he has given back far more than he ever gained from the local community, much of which has gone unnoticed.   

Well respected local identity, former Whitianga Fire Chief Merv George, was Robbie’s very first apprentice and can’t speak highly enough of his ex-boss. “I owe an awful lot to Robbie,” says Merv. “He gave me an opportunity when I thought the door had well and truly closed. He took a punt on a young carpenter’s labourer who had just been laid off due to lack of work and was willing to give anything a go. That’s one of the things I admire most about the man, if you were prepared to put in a fair day’s work, then Robbie enthusiastically provided the opportunity for apprentices like me to learn the plumbing trade and to make a positive start to life.  After my apprenticeship was completed, I spent a number of years working for Robbie before deciding to follow in his footsteps and start my own plumbing business. Robbie never held a grudge, in fact he wanted to see me take that big step, and even sold me an old van and threw in a bit of gear to help get me started. We remain good friends to this day.”

While Merv was the first, there were a number of other young Mercury Bay men who served their apprenticeships under Robbie’s guidance, including his two sons. Anthony is now a partner in Mercury Bay Plumbing & Drainage.

Robbie’s service to the community in general over a long period should also be acknowledged. Highlights have been 15 years as a Scout leader, 40 years in the Whitianga Lions and 39 years and still counting with the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade. His compassion for others less fortunate has also seen a couple of trips to the Pacific Islands over the years to help with much needed voluntary plumbing work.

With recovery from a recent knee replacement Robbie’s current focus, son Anthony is now the main hands-on person of the partnership. Robbie still calls his workshop home during the day, with office work and helping Anthony find the necessary bits and pieces his main tasks. 

Robbie calls himself a quiet achiever, which is undoubtedly an understatement. He arrived in Whitianga to start a plumbing business more than 50 years ago, along the way he has achieved an awful lot more.

Pictured: Well-known plumber and genuine good guy, Robbie Yeomans, in his workshop in Whitianga.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.