G.I. Innovator Who Builds Jobs from Waste

March 25, 2022

G.I. Innovator Who Builds Jobs from Waste G.I. Innovator Who Builds Jobs from Waste

Meet Saia Latu – a man with a mission to make a difference in the communities where he lives and works. 

He runs TROW, the leading deconstruction company in New Zealand, repurposing building materials, training students, creating jobs and employing locals to work in this growing industry.   

His latest project is deconstructing three homes in Glen Innes for Tāmaki Regeneration (TRC), repurposing the homes that have served families in Tāmaki well for many years but are being replaced with warm, dry, healthy homes. 

TROW CEO Saia uplifts Māori and Pasifika in his work and models his business on the circular economy where the work is done by locals, giving them valuable skills and a decent income, and the deconstructed materials are offered to Mana Whenua and community groups. 

Saia says, “We are trying to create a new economy for Māori and Pasifika with new good-paying jobs and educate our tamariki about this crazy idea that we have about this circular economy.”  

Saia’s work has been acknowledged by Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro who is visiting the Glen Innes site this week to see his team in action and to meet Tāmaki College students who are involved in the project.  His vision has also seen him nominated as a finalist in the Innovator category for the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards 2022.  

The inspiration for his circular economy vision came when Saia’s brother passed away in 2016 and he went home to Tonga to do some soul searching. He saw that Tonga had a shortage of building materials, New Zealand had good materials going to waste, and he was in a position to do something about that.  

Saia adds, “This project we are doing with TRC is going to be the game-changer and we are really going to showcase Māori and Pasifika entrepreneurs.”  

Students from Tāmaki College are being given on the job training at the Glen Innes site in a purpose-built outdoor classroom. 

Tāmaki College’s Principal Soana Pamaka says, “We are in the business of empowering our young people to live an independent life. We are very excited about our collaboration with TROW because this partnership is about putting a stop to things being done to us, rather it is us being in it and helping to shape this community and shape the future of our young people.”  

Shelley Katae, TRC’s CEO, says, “Working with an organisation like TROW, that creates opportunities for Tāmaki rangatahi, and prioritises Māori and Pasifika small businesses is awesome. This project brings our values of Ka poipoi, ka honohono tātou, ka waihanga tahi tātou to life.”* 

The benefits of relocating, deconstructing and salvaging old homes are huge, especially to the environment. In total, 50% of all waste in New Zealand is from construction and demolition with 20% going to landfills and 80% going to clean fill sites. Further, demolition on a site will employ one to three workers on average, but deconstruction will keep four to six people in work.    


*“We care for and nurture each other, we connect to each other, and we build together.”