Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Shock over death of leading Pacific Island businessman Robert Neru

Robert Neru was chief executive of the Pacific Business Trust for 12 months. Photo / Supplied via LinkedIn
Robert Neru was chief executive of the Pacific Business Trust for 12 months. Photo / Supplied via LinkedIn

The death of a leading Pacific Island and Wellington businessman has shocked the community.

Father-of-five Robert Neru was chief executive of the Pacific Business Trust for 12 months and before that was running his own Porirua-based business Advantage4me, an online sports performance web business that provides statistical information to sporting groups.

The Pacific Business Trust is a not-for-profit charitable trust set up in 1985, providing economic development services for Pacific businesses and business people within New Zealand.

The trust's board was "deeply saddened" by Mr Neru's death on Friday, chairman Fa'amatuainu Tino Pereira said in a statement to the Herald.

Fairfax reported Mr Neru collapsed and died at work on Friday.

Mr Neru, 46, had a "tenacious passion for unlocking the potential of Pacific business people", Mr Pereira said.

"Rob brought to the trust 25 years of significant business and entrepreneurial experience, across multiple industries. He was renowned throughout Pacific communities in New Zealand for his deep personal commitment and first-hand insights into the opportunities that business and entrepreneurship can create for the betterment of our people.

"The board and staff of the trust are immensely saddened by his passing and we offer his wife Marianne, children Zoe, Michael, Jessica, Kimberley and Andrew, his extended family and friends, our deepest condolences."

Mr Neru had been pivotal to the recent accomplishments of the trust and was a driving force behind its future vision, he said.

"His astute stewardship of the organisation, collegial management of the team and wise counsel to the board will be greatly missed."

Sam Lotu-liga, Minister for Pacific Island Affairs, said it was a sad time for the Pacific community.

"I was given the news on Friday and I'm just extremely shocked and just really saddened. I have seen him at functions in the past couple of weeks, we talked about a number of things and he and I had a pretty good relationship. He's similar age to me, we've both got young kids and we share similar interests ... so it's a real tragedy."

Mr Lotu-liga said it was a particularly sad and tough time for Mr Neru's family.

"I was with Rob and his wife at a function recently and we had a few laughs and shared a lot of different things and had a lot of things in common ... for him to be taken so suddenly is a real blow."

Labour MP for Porirua Kris Faafoi was shocked when he heard about Mr Neru's death yesterday.

"I had to sit down I couldn't believe it. I had been emailing him and only saw him a week-and-a-half ago. As far as I was aware he was a young, fit, enthusiastic, motivated person and to hear he had passed away I couldn't believe it at first."

Mr Faafoi said Mr Neru was someone who was keen to give back to the Pacific community and was focused on creating new jobs.

"So that's how I automatically connected him because he was on to a good thing and he wanted to do some good for the community ... he was someone who always wanted to encourage people, especially Pacific Islanders, into business and entrepreneurship."

Mr Neru was also a big sports fan and had been a senior rugby referee with Wellington Referee's Association until he stepped away when he began his new job.

"Someone with his energy is going to be a big loss."

Association president Jared Clarke said Mr Neru was a well respected, and sports-mad, member of the team who was both a referee and coach up until last year.

In more recent years, Mr Neru looked after training and development of up and coming referees and his business, and was also a sponsor of the Wellington and Auckland referee's associations.

Mr Neru had learned the skill in Nelson before moving to the capital and joining the Wellington association about six or seven years ago, Mr Clarke said.

According to Mr Neru's LinkedIn profile, he first attended St Bede's College in Christchurch before completing his secondary education at Nelson College.

He was also an avid fisherman and diver.

According to Pacific Island Trade and Invest statement, Mr Neru was born in Wellington and struggled with dyslexia, leaving school at 15.

"He then went on to become the youngest retail manager for electronics retailer Noel Leeming at the age of 16. He has owned and operated a lucrative domestic commercial air conditioning business; a multi-million dollar earth works and drainage operation and a business producing high performance sports and training software for clients in New Zealand, Australia, the USA and Asia. He was also a successful rugby player to representative level."

- NZ Herald

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