RANZ Roofing Excellence Award Winner 2021

Matt McDougall of The Roofing Company Canterbury has won the 2021 RANZ Roofing Excellence Award – an accolade he values very highly, as it reflects solid industry recognition for his commitment to the trade he joined as a 21-year-old.

[Article from the Spring 2021 edition of RoofLink - the quarterly roofing industry magazine published by RANZ.]

November 20, 2000, is a date Matt McDougall is unlikely to forget. Whilst working the graveyard shift at a local Shell service station, he was threatened at gunpoint at 3am one morning – an event, which left him suffering from acute PTSD. An offer, a short time later, of a labouring job with Christchurch roofing company AR Crothers was the catalyst he needed to try to help him get over the trauma.

“I was a horrible boy back then,” confesses Matt, “but Tony Crothers, known as TC, apparently saw something in me, which suggested I had potential – though he didn’t tell me back then. I didn’t know anything about roofing, but TC taught me the basics, though, at the time, I didn’t recognise my ability or have a vision for where this career could take me. “By the time I got to age 23 I realised that roofing was a great career for me, and over time I evolved my own ways of doing things, which is the path I’ve taken to this day. The more technical the job the better it is for me. I like to produce high-quality work every time, and I am forever looking at new ways of doing things,” he says.

Along with winning the 2021 RANZ Roofing Excellence Award, Matt was the tray specialist on the roof chosen by judges as the RANZ Residential Roof of the Year. RANZ Vice-President, Paul Stanley-Boden, commenting for the judges of the award, says the word ‘excellence’ used in the title, includes teamwork, mentoring, leadership, a passion for the industry, a commitment to accumulating and sharing knowledge, a willingness to engage with the builder, designer and apprentice to get the best possible outcome, and a vision for the future.

“The judges are looking at the pretty rare blend of skills, which is why it’s termed ‘excellence’,” he said. “I felt that Matt demonstrated this blend of skills in abundance, and is clearly an asset to our industry.”

Now 41, Matt’s roofing career has followed an interesting and diverse path. Six years after joining A R Crothers and working his way up in the company, he went to Australia taking up a job with Meredith Roofing near Goulburn NSW, working on some large industrial/commercial projects, including a large distribution hub for Coles.

Matt roofed in Australia for 12 months, but in the end, the heat proved too much, so he switched to selling Austral bricks for a company near WaggaWagga. Doubling the company turnover in a year, Matt then returned to Christchurch, taking up a foreman’s role with Southern Roofs. Then, in 2010, Matt was part of the team when the Roofing Company Canterbury was established – joining as head foreman and becoming what Matt describes as being “a pretty unstoppable force” in the residential roof and wall-cladding market.

This was a time when tray roofing emerged as a system of preference, and prior to Fribesco’s contribution in the market, Matt went to Calder Stewart in Invercargill for training with Dave Strudwick – thereby becoming a craftsman in the technicality of the system, which was an evolution after years of fixing corrugate and trimdek.

In 2014 Matt formed his own company Future Proof Roofing, continuing his work on significant projects in Christchurch and other parts of the South Island, and contracting to Southern Roofs and the Roofing Company Canterbury. The soldier’s memorial at Leeston, and the restored St Patrick’s Church, appeared in the portfolio during Matt’s four years of operating his own business, along with the Summerset retirement home at Wigram.  

After four-and-a-half years Matt’s business was consuming all his time – too much time away from his family, he says – so, in 2019 he returned to the Roofing Company Canterbury, where he quickly re-established himself as the go-to installer on some of the complex builds, which he thrives on delivering.

In 2019, he was awarded Colorsteel's ‘Roofer of the Year’ for an architect’s home in Strowan that featured a complex system of gables.

“I am known in the industry for speaking my mind, but good communication from the outset of a job is critical. If the details aren’t right, I will make certain that frank discussions take place and sometimes these can be difficult conversations.

“I’m a lot more confident of my abilities now. In this industry, we have to be receptive to change, and it is always my aim to produce the best result for the external roofing and cladding features of a home – no matter how complex the design.”

Matt is thankful for his years working in retail, which he says taught him to talk to people “sensibly”, as installers need to be approachable to ensure a good working relationship on site. He says co-operation, cohesion and good communication are key to what makes his contribution worthy of recognition.

Unwilling to reflect on his work ethic – his first job was as an eight-year old when he wanted a fishing rod; at 14 he worked in a fish-and-chip shop and was running that business full time as a 17-year-old – Matt says he didn’t fully realise his potential as a roof installer until his early 20s. “I didn’t know the gift I had, but roofing has been one-hundred percent the right trade for me, and I would encourage young guys to consider roofing as a brilliant trade to join, as it brings so many rewards. Some of the homes we complete are beautiful. For me, it’s the legacy of these buildings, which we leave for our children to admire, and this means a lot for me.

The RANZ Roofing Excellence Award is the most prestigious RANZ Award, the winner carefully selected every two years only, as someone exemplifying excellence in roofing in a broad sense, and to act as a leader for junior roofing professionals to be able to aspire to.