Words by Ethan Neville
Images by Loren Taylor
I met Benny at Kita Café in Morningside, central-ish Auckland. He wasn’t hard to recognise – Kina Construction merch was on full show and an unmistakable tradie-sized large flat white was already sitting in front of him. The introductions should have been brief (we were in the middle of a busy Tuesday), but we ended up chatting about fishing and our jobs and his karate black belt before I even opened my laptop. My first impression was that he is an incredibly nice guy, and that impression was bang on – he told me about his karate exploits as if it wasn’t a big deal (I wouldn’t be humble about this) and seemed just as interested in my life, despite me doing the interview.
When I finally did get around to taking some notes, I asked him to start again from the beginning. As owner of Kina Construction, he had obviously done something right, so I was keen to hear how it all began for him as a tradie.
“I was doing swimming instructing down at the pool and was doing some personal training at the gym, but got over it. You had to be real happy all the time,” he laughed. “My mate knew a guy, Pete, who was renovating his house in Ellerslie and needed help from a young fella, so I said yeah, I’ll do that.
“I went to MAGs (Mount Albert Grammar), and I didn’t have any contacts to get into building. So, when I got my chance, I jumped at it. And it worked out real good. Right place, right time, and right attitude.”
“ I kind of felt like I was ready. I wanted that next step in project managing, and I just wanted that extra push. 
Benny must have made a good impression, as he ended up doing two years of his apprenticeship up north in Te Ngaere Bay (near Matauri Bay) with Pete. Having grown up fishing with his Dad on the Manukau, he also made sure to make the most of the beachside living.
“It was sort of like a building apprenticeship and a fishing apprenticeship. We’d knock off early on Fridays and go fishing and diving. I got my first cray up there. Pete was a really good diver. We were building the house, and two houses over I rented the local butcher’s house so I could walk home for smoko. It was right down on the beach, and me and a work mate flatted together.”
But the north gave Benny more than just fishing and building experience; love was also on the cards.
“When I was living up north,” Benny explained, not resisting a smile, “I was looking for something to do. I would go to Kerikeri once a week to get groceries, and I saw this advertisement for Spanish lessons. So, I started going every week to learn Spanish and I became good friends with Maria who did the lessons, and Roberto her partner.
Benny learnt the basics with his dad on the Manukau. Image provided by Benny.
Benny and his dog Kina, the company’s namesake. Image provided by Benny.
“A year later I saved up and went to Chile for their wedding. Me and my mate went up to the north of Chile to see the Atacama Desert, and I met my partner in the accommodation. She was from the UK, and ended up living in Aussie, so I’d see her about once a month. Then in 2014, she came to NZ to live.”
I’m not sure how many people have met their partners in a desert, but it seems to be a winning formula – the pair are now engaged and have two kids together (aged four and one). They now live in Auckland, which is where Benny came back to finish off his apprenticeship. With the paperwork ticked off, he worked as a qualified builder for five years before he thought it was time to go out on his own in 2017.
“I kind of felt like I was ready. I wanted that next step in project managing, and I just wanted that extra push... I started off doing little jobs that no one else wanted to do. It was just me at the time with help from my partner Heidi, teaching me the book keeping side of it all. Then an opportunity came up to do a job in the Coromandel for my family. I got two apprentices on board and we lived and worked down there for six months to build a bach.
“Work started coming in through word of mouth and we needed more guys to keep up. Now we have myself, a foreman, a builder and three apprentices who are almost qualified, and two boys who are fresh out of school learning and working their way off the broom.
“We have a real good reno in Mt Albert and a couple in the pipeline.… It’s so rewarding working on these beautiful older houses made of timber and bringing them back to life.”
With all things building ticked off, there was an area of conversation I was keen to revisit: his karate black belt.
“I started Seido Karate at 13 with my old man,” Benny explained. “We graded every time together until we were both black belt. That was when I was about 20. I don’t do it much anymore but I will never forget that journey. I have just started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) at Sorriso BJJ Club in Mt Eden, and I’m a white belt now. And I had an MMA fight last year.”
“Wait, what?!” was my response to that final remark. “You had an MMA fight? How was it?”
“It was good! I got a TKO finish at the end of the second round. My game plan was to do low kicks and work his front leg and it must have worked. I really enjoyed the grappling side of the MMA training, that is why I started at Sorriso after my fight. At the moment I’m training towards competing in my first BJJ tournament.”
I was impressed, and also shocked at how he manages to squeeze this training into his already busy family and work schedules. He confirmed that it’s busy.
“I do BJJ now three times a week in the mornings. and I come back home at 7:00am and take the kids to daycare, then a normal work day is split between on-site, meetings, in the office and on the road picking up materials. The balance is good at the moment with running the business because I can have that balance with the kids – Ican take them to and from daycare. I have a good team of guys I can trust who take care of the mahi onsite and they smash it out too.”
As if all the above is not enough, Benny spends what time he has left under the water with a speargun in hand.
“My old man was into fishing,” he told me. “Our first boat was The Mighty Midget – afour and a half metre tinny. We went out fishing in the Manukau. I remember being in the front of the boat, and he was loving it, but I was freaking out coming up and down waves – we must have been close to the bar. We always got a feed of snapper and kahawai though.”
Benny now fishes regularly in the Manukau and up north with his mates, but it was a solo trip that immediately sprung to mind when I asked him about any special catches.
“We were up in Patau South for Auckland Anniversary weekend. We had a big night with the mates, and I was sleeping in my van. I got up early before anyone else and swam up off the point and managed to shoot a kingie. Then it was a 1.5km swim back, and I was worried about sharks, so I asked some guys who were pulling a cray pot to take me back in to shore. They said, ‘Yeah man,’ and took me back to the shallows. I ended up wading back to shore with a kingie on my back, and all the guys back at the house were stoked. That was the first kingie I had shot.”
Since then, Benny has ticked off plenty more trophy fish, including a bluefin tuna this year on rod and reel – not bad for a business owner, dad, and martial artist.
With our time coming to an end, my final question was the obvious one: “So, what’s next?”
“I’m pretty happy at where the business is at ay,” Benny replied. “We’ve got a good little crew. I want to keep getting local jobs and renos around Mt Albert and go from there. I also want to keep spending more time with the family, and I hope to get out fishing more as well.”
After everything he’s accomplished, I don’t doubt he will do all of the above, and more!