Frontier Pools have been involved in concrete swimming pool construction for approaching 50 years, servicing the greater Auckland area.

When builder Neville Partridge founded his pool construction company in 1979, it’s likely he never imagined that this venture was the starting blocks for a legacy.

Although the business was established to install vinyl pools, it had innovation at its heart. In 1988, the enterprise was one of the first to embrace a technology that allowed concrete to be sprayed onto a vertical surface. That first pool in Eastern Beach, Auckland, which fitted into a right-angled corner and was shaped like an ‘S’, metaphorically and physically broke new boundaries. Neville called the offshoot Frontier Pools.

Grounded in good old-fashioned service, customers came by word of mouth, and by 2008 the firm had built more than 300 concrete pools. Neil Runciman – a national-level competitive water-skier – was a family friend and had a summer job with the company. He was young, keen and capable: a fast learner, and in 1996, when he hung up his skis and returned to Aotearoa to settle down, he joined Neville full time.

In 2006 Neil bought into the construction arm of the company, whilst Neville retained the retail and valet side of the business.  

Affable and accomplished, Neil ran the operation as his mentor had – with dedication to detail and personal service – until 2022 when, following a short illness, he sadly passed away. Neil had been a mentor to employee Damian Francis for a decade. Damian and his close team were able to pick up from where Neil left off and carry through the knowledge and tradition.

In that respect, it’s pretty much business as usual. When Damian joined the close-knit Frontier Pools team in 2013, he moved up from South Canterbury to follow his wife’s career as a teacher. Having worked in the concreting industry laying slabs and driveways, he was fascinated by the process of crafting something from concrete on a vertical plane.

Damian put down the tools and took up the reins as operations manager of Frontier Pools, sticking to the tried-and-true values he had learnt over more than a decade. “Neil was very particular,” he says. “With high standards and a real focus on detail.” Not only did he keep the project on track from a big-picture perspective, but he was also pedantic about the visual aesthetic.

In the same vein, Neil’s wife Julie remembers his philosophy. “He always said, ‘I am never going to be the cheapest, because I won’t cut corners.’ He wouldn’t put in a baseline heat pump or filtration system – he’d always go for a known quality brand that had reliable post-sales warranty and support.”

In the decade or so that Damian has been involved, he has seen the industry develop impressively. From grand designs, such as a pool installed in a Mt Albert property that features a series of circular shapes, to those with a crisp infinity edge that tumble off seamless to the horizon, to smaller urban environments where the pools are immediately connected to the home, the beauty of concrete construction is the flexibility of the design. “You’re not restricted by shape or size; nothing is impossible,” says Damian. “We’ve constructed 20 metre lap pools and 3 metre by 3 metre plunge pools in colour palettes from white through to black, with many blues in between. There really are no limitations.”

What has kept him at the company is not only the challenge of bringing so many ideas into reality but also the family vibe that surrounds the tight-knit team.

Damian Francis & Neil Runciman in recent times
Neville Partridge - the early days
The former service arm of Frontier Pools