Topic: Chapter 10 - Te Horo and then to Waitotara

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While farming at Shannon I was asked by Ray Shepherd, the Real Estate agent who introduced me to the Shannon farm, if I would supervise a dairy farm at Te Horo about 20 kilometres south of Shannon.

The farm of 196 acres was on State Highway 1 opposite Mary Crest, a Roman Catholic residential complex established about 1950 to cater for delinquent girls. The farm was owned by Mr. McParland a Wellington hotelier and Van der Walden was the 50/50 share milker.

Having inspected the property I then reported to Mr. McParland telling him that before I would supervise the operation there would have to be a cash injection to upgrade the milking shed, water supply, fencing and pastures.  McParland said he knew all that, the share milker had told him and all McParland wanted me to do was dampen down the share milker’s requests.  My reply was that if I could not introduce improvements I would not impeach my reputation by accepting the status quo.  Two weeks later Ray Shepherd asked me if I would lease the farm.

At that time I was still struggling financially at Shannon.  McParland agreed to a lease for three years with compensation for improvements or an option to buy at $120,000 for 190 acres and $30,000 for the homestead and six acres, but I had one year to buy the homestead of five bedrooms, lounge, dining room, and an activities room of 1,200 sq. ft. where I installed a full-sized billiard table, table tennis table, an impressive bar and open fire place.

After the Shannon farm was sold we moved to Te Horo.  The sharemilker had a near new four bedroom dwelling but he vacated and Paul and Janine Riley from Taranaki moved in.  I had supervised Janine’s mother’s three farms in Taranaki.

Janine (Imlah) married Paul Riley and they asked me if I knew of a job so they were available for the Te Horo farm.  Paul had worked on farms in Taranaki but unbeknown to me he had been involved in a motor accident and had suffered head injuries which caused him to buckle under pressure.

They bought the bulk of the previous sharemilker’s herd but had no young stock so there was plenty of scope to renew pastures by way of a crop of potatoes.  As I was still living at Shannon I had the grassland cultivation and potato planting done by contractors.  To dig the potatoes I asked if I could hire Paul’s Fergie 35.  The arrangement seemed all right until I got a lawyer’s letter demanding half the proceeds.  That would have been fair had they paid half the cultivation and half the seed and manure costs.  To preserve the peace I gave them a cheque for $7,000.  When I asked them to buy more milkers to meet the contract quota obligation they did not do so.

The sharemilkers had insufficient cows and were barely producing enough milk to satisfy the quota.  There was a surplus of low producing grass so I bought in 10 in milk cows but they were not in calf. In the hope that the sharemilkers would have these cows inseminated I promised them the heifer calves and I would keep the bull calves.  After six months I asked if they had used the straws and they replied no.  When I asked why not they said it was because I could have made a lot of money.  I was devastated.  They also sold the ten cows I had purchased as the cows were incompatible with the farm cows.

The Rileys’ were not up to the job which included co-operating with or just tolerating my development and left within two years. I bought their herd and employed a 39% share milker, Harold Fulford and his wife Theresa.  Harold was a good servant.  He stayed for three years and was then enticed across the road by Jim Napier, a move he later told me that he regretted.  Harold is now the manager of the Otaki Maori Race Course.

On the farm I put in place all those improvements that I initially claimed were necessary.  The original water supply was from a stream across the Main Highway and that was replaced with a bore in the centre of the roundabout in front of the new 16 aside herringbone milking shed (cost $17,000). I built a roof over the old cowshed and yard for tractors and plant; erected new fencing around 60% of the paddocks; grew 10 acres of potatoes each year till all potato compatible paddocks had been regrassed; established two sources of water for irrigation; concrete lined a large silage pit using aggregate bin division at a cost of $2,000 and extended the central race system by bridging a deep stream.

Greg who had a placid nature, helped on the farm and did most of the tractor work except hay baling and potato digging and always helped with the afternoon milking.  When Fraser left school I realized he was not cut out to be a dairy farmer so he went to work on a sheep farm at Brunswick out of Wanganui.  When he had acquired a team of dogs I went with him to Otairi, the Duncan property out of Hunterville, we met Alf Boynton the manager and obtained Fraser a job on this most prestigious property for two years.  Fraser was well set up with a new Holden Ute, a good horse float and his own horse, Star. After Otairi Fraser worked on “Otamoa” Barry Plimmer’s sheep station on the Para Para Highway north of Wanganui where he stayed until I bought the Waitotara farm.

At the time I decided to sell the farm at Te Horo the Railways was trying to close the rail crossings. I could not agree to this as I had to have one access crossing.  I went to the Railways in Wellington and negotiated to give up one crossing and have a license for the other. The numbers were to be 55 and 56.  I gave the details to my lawyer to finalise the lease arrangements and unfortunately he altered the numbers.  He thought that the crossing nearest to Wellington would be 55, but in reality it was 56.  He altered it and we got the lease documents just before the auction which was held in the Te Horo hall.  The hall was packed because this was at the peak of the kiwi fruit boom and our farm at Te Horo was an ideal situation – ideal soil and ideal contour.  Some one asked what was the situation regarding the railway crossing and the lawyer, because he had mucked up the numbers and we had no final lease, had to say Caveat Emptor – meaning Buyer Beware.  It was a bland statement.  He made no explanation that the situation was under control and that we were in negotiations with the Railways and that a lease was being put in place.  As a result there were no bids for the property on auction day.

When I agreed to buy the Waitotara farm from Geoff McQuade through Dalgety Crown in Wanganui for $900,000, the manager of Dalgety Crown, Laurie Hocguard said I could buy the flock of 3,500 ewes for $20.00 each i.e. $70,000.  When I took possession six months later, Hocguard said the sheep price was $27.00 per head.  Of course I did not have the $20.00 price in writing.  The dairy herd at Te Horo was sold for about $70,000 so Fraser had to get a loan from the State Advances (Rural Bank) to complete the purchase of the flock.  The dairy herd at Te Horo was sold under the names of Fraser and Gregory but Fraser alone could apply to the Rural Bank for the bridging loan to finance the full flock of 3,500 ewes. 

McQuade had $3 million worth of land to sell.  He had bought a $3 million property on the Para Para that he intended to plant in trees and syndicate.  It was some months before he sold the land adjacent to our 900 acres.

 Wadham had written into our Sale and Purchase Agreement with McQuade that I would be “together and severally responsible for the late payment”.  Like almost everybody else who buys property I did not read every clause of the Sale and Purchase Agreement.  One relied on one’s solicitor to point out the fish hooks.  As I had paid the $900,000 to McQuade I was astonished when Wadham told me I owed $50,000 in penalty interest, I cannot remember seeing a letter to support his statement.   I told Fraser and said we could get out of the predicament by growing 50 acres of potatoes in one year.  We had the land; we had the machinery, including the TK Bedford truck to take the potatoes to New Plymouth which was a good market place.  We had the local Maori people to harvest the potatoes and load the truck and we had the expertise.  Next morning after apparently discussing the proposal with Julie, he said “bugger the spuds”.  Nevertheless I planted 10 acres.

To pay the penalty interest I then made application to the Southern Cross Building and Banking Society (the same people that I had won the interest free loan from at Shannon,) and they agreed.

I had always held 100A shares in our Company “Castle Farm Ltd” with Heather holding 200 B shares, but Wadham insisted (in fact demanded) that I transfer 10 of the A shares to Heather. Previously she did not want to get involved in the business side, so when the mortgage documents arrived she refused to sign them.  That then was crunch time so I forged her signature to complete the deal.  I was in a real predicament and did not know what I would do next.

There appeared to still be a future in market gardening or small fruit, with feijoas being my favourite.  As the family had put me out on a limb I had to take action to save my neck.  I engaged surveyors to do a scheme plan to subdivide the 270 acres of top terrace.  The survey was completed and I asked Goudie to do a valuation on the presumption that the survey was complete and the new titles issued.  He came up with a figure of $1,600,000.  When Hoffman heard this he had another brain storm, he wanted to exchange the farm for a motel, which sounded a good idea and, if it came off, would give me a $1,000,000

Dalgety Crown (Hocguard) had bankrupted the Berrymans and they had nowhere to go.  I put up $10,000 so that they could put in a tender for a King Country farm whose access was compromised by a collapsed access bridge.  Their tender was accepted and they took possession of an 800ha. property that was underdeveloped so there was no place for their 490 stud sheep which I took on to the Waitotara farm.  The Berryman predicament is written up in “Into the Abyss” by Hugh de Lacy, but now warrants a second edition as it has been an ongoing saga.

We sold some of the sheep to reduce the work load and reduce Fraser’s debt to the Rural Bank.  Fraser, Julie and their two children had moved to a house in Castlecliff, a suburb of Wanganui.  To get some quick cash, I asked Hocguard to lease out some land for a barley crop. “Cash in my bank before they put the plough in the ground.” Chesswash was the man chosen.  I gave Hocguard a deposit slip to put the $11,000 in the bank which with the $4,000 already there would offset the $13,000 interest payment that was due. 

Heather, Gregory and I had a long standing booking to go to the World 3-Day Horse Trials at Gawler in South Australia to have three weeks holiday.  Hocguard did not deposit the money and somebody must have advised the debenture holder as when we arrived home three weeks later on reading the Saturday Dominion I found that Castle Farms Ltd was in Receivership and the secretary for the Receiver was Commercial Management Downsview Nominees who was the debenture holder, both associated with John George Russell, a bosom pal of Peter Hoffman.  So much for the exchange for a motel.

 Hoffman and Russell were self-serving rogues who developed quite a reputation.  Russell became known as a corporate undertaker and was eventually committed to jail.  Locals Wayne Davidson and Colin Hedges approached Hoffman with a view to buying the farm.  Hoffman told them if they paid off the second mortgage that would give them a head start in any negotiations.  Wayne’s friend, Keith Belton, said he had $200,000 that he would/could lend him so Wayne offered $700,000 for the farm which was verbally accepted and Colin Hedges took up residence.  Keith Belton then reneged on transferring the $200,000 so Wayne was left in the cold and Belton offered the Receivers $450,000 which was accepted and Keith’s son, who was the licensee of the Red Lion Hotel in Wanganui, took up residence and put a manager in the Red Lion.

Keith died suddenly within a couple of years and Allan sold the farm and the Red Lion realizing close to $2,000,000.  Attracted by an International scam by a Philippines Consortium which offered to double his money over night he lost the lot.  Allan was a champion fencer and the last I heard of him was that he was contract fencing.

Colin has gone to a sharemilking job near Te Awamutu and Wayne has been overseas for the past 10 years trying to source overseas funds to help other people who had the rough end of the stick at the hands of unscrupulous and dishonest business people, a class that I fell into.

When we took over the Waitotara farm Gregory and Fraser took up residency in the homestead which was fronted by a large lawn with shrubbery and a vegetable garden.  Heather continued to work at Kimberley Hospital near Levin and would go up to the farm on Friday nights and return to Te Horo (and work) on Monday mornings, whilst I spent my time between Waitotara, the Otaki office and nights at Te Horo Beach.  I was also carrying out valuations all over New Zealand mostly for Hoffman or Bruce Coe (Finance Services of Otaki).

                                                                                      Waitotara Farm and Homestead










above: Waitotara Farm and Homestead

I bought Waitotara from Geoff McQuade who came from Waimate.  He said it was the best soil type that he had ever owned.  However, his wife did not like the district and she moved to a fashion shop in Bulls.

Geoff had close to 3,000 acres and bought a 3,000 acres hill property on the Para Para that he was going to plant in pines and syndicate.  We had paid for our 900 acres but Geoff had trouble selling the balance with the result I was stung for $50,000 penalty tax as my lawyer (still Wadham) had signed me up “together and severally” for penalty interest.  Most unfairly I thought,

Soon after  we had taken over the Waitotara farm there was a localised rain storm that affected the south west corner of the farm, mostly fairly steep and south facing.  It caused many slips over a 100 acre area and looked horrendous from the neighbouring farm (Ruth Richardson’s home farm).

The Regional Council came to light and had the 100 acres planted in pines and if I remember correctly paid to have the seedling plants released.  This seemed like a God given favour as the trees are now mighty specimens and would have a value exceeding a million dollars.

I was then left as the unconditional purchaser of property at Waitotara for $900,000.  I had a delayed settlement date of some six months.  Negotiations were entered into with prospective purchasers of the Te Horo property and a settlement finally agreed at $700,000.  That left a short-fall of $200,000 on the purchase price of the Waitotara property which had to be covered by a mortgage.  This was something I had not imagined I would have to do.  Some eight years previously I had taken out an insurance policy with the Sun Alliance for $300,000 and I was assured that I would be able to borrow up to $300,000 on my own life with a first mortgage over the property, but the lending criteria changed because of escalating land values.

The Sun Alliance would lend me something like $300,000 provided it was supported by a valuation by a registered valuer and I obtained this.  First of all Goudie of Wanganui valued the property at $835,000.  Sun Alliance then asked for another valuation, but not from Goudie.  I got one from Roe Newland, also from Wanganui, and he came out at $825,000. This was a satisfactory valuation on the property for which I was paying $900,000.  There were 200 acres of top quality leasehold land included in the sale but because it was leasehold there was no monetary value put on it but it would be a big help to the cash flow as it was flat, very fertile and summer safe, as was the whole farm.

Sun Alliances then came back and wanted another valuation, so I went to Morgan’s in Palmerston North, and asked if they would do a valuation and they got Paul Goldfinch to do it.  He came up with a valuation of $635,000.  When I analyzed that valuation I discovered Goldfinch had left out 250 acres of hill country which the other valuers had valued at $1,000 an acre.  So, in effect, if his valuation had been complete the three valuations would have been within about $50,000 of each other.  But Goldfinch’s valuation was so much below the others.  I then went back to Goldfinch and asked if he would look at the valuation again and check it for errors and put it right.  He declared that he never altered a valuation after it had left his desk.

 Sun Alliance said they would lend only 30% on his valuation, which left me being able to borrow under $200,000 which was insufficient to bridge the gap.  I then put in a scheme plan to subdivide the top flat for horticulture.

Subsequently I got Goudie to update his valuation before I lodged the objection to Goldfinch’s valuation and Goudie valued the Waitotara property at $1,600,000.  It was this valuation that alerted Peter Hoffman of Hamilton, who led me to believe he could help me out of the situation I had got myself into because of Fraser leaving the farm and Castle Farm Co., going into Receivership on the strength of a debenture that Hoffman persuaded me to sign in favour of Commercial Management with Dominion Nominees as secretary, both fronts for John George Russell, the head of the failed Securitibank, an illegal business arrangement.  Later I wrote to Doug Graham, Minister of Justice, asking him to intervene – his reply – “What is to be shall be” that was in 1987.

I lodged an objection to Goldfinch’s valuation with the Valuers’ Registration Board, but they seemed to miss the fact that Goldfinch’s valuation omitted the 250 acres of hilly land.

The valuer, Russ Goudie, didn’t help my case against Goldfinch as the figure of $625.000 by Goldfinch had left out 250 acres of hill country that the first two valuers (Goudie and Newland) had both valued at $1,000 an acre.  Goldfinch’s valuation would have been $875.000 if he had added up the total area correctly.  It appears that the error escaped the Registration Board and Russ Goudie.

In my opinion it was a cheap farm considering the size, soil type and quality, and the 200 acres of long lease Maori Lease which did not require any capital input to occupy.  Perhaps the shearing shed was not to the size that a flock of 4,000 ewes would warrant.

I moved to the farm with all the steel and timber framing to build a covered yard to cover 2,000 sheep.  I was able to put in a 4th shearing stand by replacing the Lister drive unit with an electric motor.

 It was while installing the electric motor that I fell to the floor and landed on the tool box or a cross plank.  I was carried by ambulance to Wanganui Hospital and spent the night in my working clothes and was given no food.  I was sent home in the morning but came to Otaki in considerable pain.  Another x-ray showed I had four broken ribs.

On the basis of the $625.000 valuation, Sun Alliance would only lend 40% that was $240.000, whereas I required at least $250,000 to carry out the initial development.  I should have been happy with $240.000, but because of the scale of the property, I also needed more stock and bigger implements.  It took 24 trips with the TK Bedford to shift all the plant from Te Horo - five tractors, including a bull dozer, all the haymaking gear, all the potato growing and harvesting gear.  The plant and vehicles were valued at $72,000, but on dispersal I got $21,000.  The local farmers did not co-operate, I was an outsider.

When I first moved to Waitotara, I continued my Lions’ Club membership from Otaki to Waverley.  On being introduced to a Waverley club member he said that I as lucky to get a Waverley district farm as there was enough money is the district to buy every farm that came onto the market.

John Russell was the head of Securitibank based in Dunedin that went belly up in the 1970’s.  His staff of that era included Fay, Richwhite and Pethervic, so they had the opportunity of being schooled in shady dealings.  In 1986 Russell became known as the Corporate Undertaker.  Professional people asked of Securitibank where did the money go?

Another with big plans was the Hamilton firm of Peter Hoffman who had no money and was an undischarged bankrupt.  He had big ideas on time-sharing, which needed valuations to get them off the ground.  Hoffman had me value a Rest Home from plans that he had drawn up and which he planned for a site he had chosen beside the Waipa River at Ngaruawahia.  Hoffman sold off the plans to John Victor Evans and James Shepherd, friends of his, but they welshed on the idea and got out of it by discrediting me.  They both did time in jail for GST fraud.  I think they were going to finance the Rest Home with ill-gotten gains, but the development never went ahead.

Evans and Shepherd laid an unfounded and, I claim, false claim against me to the Valuers’ Registration Board.  There was preliminary hearing but the Board ruled that the actions of Evans and Shepherd would not have affected my ability to value according to the book.  As I claimed their accusations were false I wanted to subpoena them to the Registration Board hearing, but naturally they refused.  The Registrar (now deceased) refused to subpoena them.  I was alarmed as I realized that the Registrar had the power to take my livelihood away but did not have the power to subpoena hostile witnesses.  

I had Allan Wallbank, who was then the MP for Gisborne to represent me, and he was horrified at the attitude of the Board and he dubbed them a Kangaroo Court.  I said I didn’t have a kangaroo skin but I would bring a wallaby skin to the next sitting of the Court.

The Registrar recommended that I should engage a Barrister and they nominated a Mr. Reed. Mr. Reed wanted $6,000 up front but I said I never paid anybody before they worked for me.  I did not go to the next Board hearing so I was struck off as a Registered Valuer.

Hoffman was a good embalmer for Russell, but I do not think he got much money out of Russell, always working for a promise as I was with Hoffman, who had me valuing properties all over the country with the intention of setting up time shares.  I thought the economic outlook was good and I had faith in the idea, but there was never enough money to get them off the ground.  Hoffman promised units and/or fat fees if he ever got one off the ground.  Proposals included Paihia, Waiwera, Orewa, Bridge Motels in Bulls, Stage Coach at Oamaru and one in Timaru. At Oamaru Hoffman had ideas of exchanging the Waitotara farm for a motel or a kiwi fruit orchard, but nothing ever came of his brain storms.

I went to Hocgard, manager of Dalgety Crown of Wanganui.  He said he could arrange the money and that there would be no problem.  What he arranged was a front end loaded mortgage, whereby I could borrow $440,000 but only pick up $250,000.  The interest on that was only 12%, whereas the interest on other mortgages at that time was 17%.  It looked a reasonable proposition and at least it got me in the gate however the prospect of having to pay back $440,000 in principal in five years time was a real worry and I lost some incentive.

I lodged an objection to Goldfinch’s valuation with the Valuers’ Registration Board.  He was subsequently charged and fined something like $1,000 and severely reprimanded.  Goudie gave evidence when my objection was heard and he said that he had over valued the property previously and he sided with Goldfinch, which would reduce the fine that the VR Board imposed on Goldfinch.

The previous year I had carried out valuations for Dalgety Crown in Wanganui and my fees for the year were $35,000.  Hocgard did a budget for me to present to the company which was putting up the front end loaded mortgage and in it he assessed that I would do $35,000 worth of valuations for his company alone.  But it turned out he did not get me to do another valuation and I had to undertake valuations out of town and I got involved with a firm in Hamilton who promised to give me a lot of work.  They did, but payment was very slow and, in some cases did not exist.  I did not get any income for some major valuations that I had travelled all over New Zealand to carry out for Finance Services (Bruce Coe) of Otaki.  He promised he would finance clients on a lower interest rate but did not refinance anybody.

I had an auction sale of the dairy herd at Te Horo in the name of F V and G Wright and the realisation almost equaled the cost of the 3,500 ewes but no cattle so Gregory and Fraser should have had a freehold flock.  I initially bought  400  head of young cattle which I got from the Motua Landcorp  farm at Shannon where they had been neglected., they were suffering from pink eye and lice,  and I got them as cheap as I believe I have ever bought cattle. They cost about $40 a head and we brought 900 bales of hay up from Te Horo.  We had to carry them through another winter when they would need more hay so over the summer we made 9,000 bales of hay.

 The budget showed the farm appeared to be quite profitable and I should have been topping the cash flow up with my valuations.  In 1981 the valuations in the Wanganui area alone had earned me $35,000 and I was undertaking valuations all over New Zealand I might have been earning close to $100,000 even but not getting paid promptly.  I was working from home having had an office built adjacent to the backdoor before I had the office in Otaki so I had no overheads of staff and rent and what have you.  But then I established an office in Otaki.

The first indication that there was something wrong  with relationships on the farm  came in 1985 when Frazer and Julie and their new baby and her son, who was about 5, moved out of the homestead into the shearers’ quarters and left Greg in the homestead on his own.  Fraser wasn’t attending to the sheep, and the lambing percentage was right down.  It helped that he had a freehold flock. The shearers’ quarters were not fit to be lived in and I could not understand how she could have persuaded Fraser to follow her over there.  I did try and help a bit and did some renovation and had the water supply upgraded.  Now, 23 years later the scenario is much clearer, but 23 years too late.   In 2007 Fraser left Julie to her own devices and I have no sympathy for her.  He moved to Hamilton then to Levin where he now has permanent employment.

A couple, Dave Harper and his wife, had returned from Australia and I had had some association with them and the rest of the family through my business.  The family were farmers at Otaki and Harper’s brother, Paul, had a small finance company in Palmerston North.  No accommodation had been arranged for them so I suggested that they should go to Waitotara and look after Gregg. Unfortunately this became a sore point because Paul, his family and their friends visited for the weekends, with some staying longer. Heather and I were treated like trespassers if we spent our weekends at Waitotara.  I usually spent a day or two during the week until the situation became intolerable and Heather stayed away.

I got no money from Fraser for rent nor was I getting the money I was earning from valuations. There was a lot on promise, but to keep faith with the clients I kept working.  I did a lot of work for a finance broker, Bruce Coe based in Otaki, and Peter Hoffman, a business consultant based in Hamilton.  I travelled all over New Zealand from Cromwell in the South Island to Paihia in the North Island, valuing a variety of properties at their direction.   Bruce Coe, had a lot of contacts around the country this was coming up to the share market crash and he was promising people that he would refinance them at a reduced interest rate, but of all the valuations I did he did not refinance one of the people and the clients were inclined to blame me claiming that my valuations were not up to the standard required.  But that was not the case, he just did not have the access to the money that he claimed to have.

Some of his clients did pay, but in my big heartedness I let others off because I knew at the outset that without being refinanced they could not pay me.  As a matter of fact, one of the people from Raetihi who were bankrupted has since worked his way up again and he sent me a cheque for $900.

At times this meant that I was basically working for nothing but was still enjoying the farm income. I also had the income from the Te Horo dairy farm from 1972 to 1982.  Heather worked at Kimberley for 25 years and she helped keep the roof over my head.  She paid for the house keeping.  She did a wonderful job looking after the handicapped. All our married life, Heather has pulled her weight.

In March 1985 I realised that I was not going to make it with the Waitotara farm.  I was digging potatoes and I was called to Wanganui to do an urgent valuation.  I went to Fraser, who had sheep in the yards, and asked him to dig four more rows of potatoes for me to fill up the truck which I intended to deliver to New Plymouth later in the day.    I showered and got ready, called into the post office at Waitotara to pick up the mail and Fraser and Julie actually passed me going to town. That was really the day I said I am on the wrong foot and I knew that things were never going to work out.  Julie was dictating the terms which were illogical.  Her parents did not even own a house or a car yet she thought she was Mrs. Financial Advisor.   I realised that Fraser was not going to pull his weight and I was far too stretched between doing valuations.

Heather was living in our house on the main road just north of Otaki.  We also had a beach house for which we paid $19,000 and we did that up and we sold it for $57,000.  So, from that side, things were alright. Then I leased the building off Turners and Growers in Otaki.  I was also paying $833.00 per month for the lease of the office building in Otaki and I had a compulsory purchasing clause on it at $123,000.  I upgraded it to three titles covering a tea room, trading store and a double office suite (my valuation office) and an optician’s consulting room.

As the purchase price was fixed at $128,000 - $5,000 deposit = $123,000 it was in my interest to upgrade the building and get the property into three titles to cover the diverse nature of the buildings, Also I had extended my office section to provide another suite or offices with a side entrance.  As I did not have the money to pay the $123,000 I put the property on the market at $168,000 to be paid contemporaneously with the expiry of the lease.  I asked Mark Wadham who had been my solicitor for some 10 years to draw up the necessary contracts.  He said it could not be done.  I argued with him constantly but to no avail. I should have gone to another lawyer but I suppose I was too busy chasing around the country to value property for an increasing number of clients.

The people who were looking after Greg, with the best of intentions ordered 500 new potato bags, when I was actually picking up second hand bags down at Te Horo from the roadside markets and supplying them with potatoes.  I didn’t know about the 500 new bags.  The bags were returned to Turner and Growers Wanganui and I never received a credit for them.  I went to Auckland over it.  Wanganui claimed they had no record of any bags being returned - that was $500.00 worth - as did the Auckland office.  At the same time they reversed the charges on the building account.   I had two accounts with Turner and Growers, one account was the Horticultural a/c the other a Building a/c. The bags were charged to the Horticultural a/c but were never credited when they went back.  The building a/c was paying $833.00 per month but that sum was debited to the Horticultural a/c when in fact the sum was coming out of my bank a/c as an automatic payment and should have been shown as a credit. So in one fell swoop I had a debit from Turner’s and Growers in the Horticulture account of $1,300 and the Building account had to be topped up with $833.  I went to Auckland to see the account for Turner’s and Growers and I was rubbished.

I realised then that this was not going to work and I was not going to have the money to pay for the farm.  The farm was foreclosed and I went into Receivership and I was made bankrupt.

 When I got over the initial humiliation of being bankrupted I thought I should not have been bankrupted, I still had cattle on the place and I thought that there was enough there to clear the cattle mortgage.  I engaged lawyers from Wellington to fight Dalgety Crown, the land agents in Wanganui who had initiated the situation. The Land and Income Tax also had a claim as my   accountant had not lodged a Tax Return.  Earlier on I had engaged a particularly good firm of accountants in Palmerston North because as I intended to expand my business I knew I had to have excellent accountants.

All went well for two years then my account was passed over to a bloke Gibson who if he wasn’t retired he should have been.  He did not complete my accounts. I had a tax loss of $58,000.00 carried forward so that there was no tax to pay, but because I did not file a Return the Income Tax Department claimed $68,000 tax.  Turners and Growers were claiming a $2,100.00 debt, which climbed to $4,000.00 because of penalty interest, and they and sued me eventually adding their claim to the bankruptcy claim as Dalgety Crown claimed I owed them $170,000.  I had borrowed another $100,000.00 to get more cattle and on a bailment I claimed I had 170 cattle on the farm at $600.00 each.  Dalgety Crown rounded up those cattle and sold them in the name of the farmer Simms Bros., who lent me the money on bailment, but instead of crediting my account with the money from the sale of the cattle they credited it direct to Simms Bros, and on the surface I still owed Simms Bros $100,000 through Dalgety Crown account.

Unfortunately the stock agent who organised the muster, Bruce Acheson, has died and no one else would be aware of what went on, except Laurie Hocgard the then manager of Dalgety Crown. Who I now find claimed that I owed Dalgety Crown $170,000 according to the claim that they presented to the Bankruptcy Court, but Hocgard will not want to tell the truth or the facts about the bailment or the muster.

I had invested $30,000 in Paul Harper’s finance company for what I thought was a 12 month term.  But when I wanted it back Paul Harper’s Courier Finance Co., claimed that I had signed for two years so I could not get the money back when I desperately needed it.  It was at this time that Dalgety Crown, through Hocgard, had tied up the Berrymans, eventually sending them bankrupt and off their Wanganui farm.

I used a Wellington firm of lawyers Roche and Dean to represent me in the bankruptcy hearing.  I was so humiliated at getting down to that level. Roche and Dean got legal aid finance.  I did not attend the Court in Wellington.  In a strange sort of way being bankrupted was a relief.

When I stood back and contemplated what had happened to me I went to Roche and Dean in Wellington and asked to see my file.  They could not find it and I went to their office three times, but no luck.  I never did sight it. 

On 2 September 1983 Kirsa Jensen disappeared from the foreshore at Whiranaki north of Napier.  She had been riding her horse along the coast.  The first person suspected of abducting her was a male who was driving a light truck with an open tray and stained wooden sides.

On that day a similar vehicle came up Parekama Road, i.e., the road that ran through our farm ending in Vic Falkner’s farm at the blind end of Parekama Road.  The vehicle, with a man sleeping in it, was parked on the side of the road all the next day.  I rang the Wanganui Police a day or two later and informed them of my suspicions but they could not relate to the possible connection.  On the north side of the road there was a deep, narrow bush clad gully where a body could have been lifted over the fence and then rolled down the hillside through sparse bush until it fell into the gulch.  This gulch was partly on our farm but because of the shading of the bush I never had the need to go into it.  I would rely on the dogs to bring any stock out.

I have rung the police on two more occasions but they were not interested.  The site is only three hours drive from Napier, a mere bagatelle if one wanted to cover up a nefarious activity.

I’ve learned

That either you control your attitude or it controls you.

That your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don’t even know you.

That credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.


When we moved to the farm at Te Horo I employed a share milker which meant I did not have to milk cows.  I was doing some of the farm development work which included building a 16 aside herring bone milking shed and an implement shed over the old milking shed and yard.  Two hay barns and a concrete sided silage pit were also built.  I bought the aggregate bins from sold up Stresscrete for $1,000, had them carted to the farm and craned into position for $1,000 then used 5m of concrete to complete the concrete floor.

I was also developing my valuation business.   While the business gradually grew I was working from home until the point was reached that I had to have an office on its own.  My nephew, John Rolfe built in the back porch which gave me a very comfortable and roomy office.  However, this became too small. The business grew to the point where I needed assistance.  I hired Jennie Highstead as a horticultural consultant, and Alan Beagby as a valuer.  Allan came off a farm at Woodville and had quite a lot of valuation experience.  He also had some rural valuation experience which I found was quite helpful.  He may have been short on practical farming experience but he was worldly wise as he done his O.E. when he sourced more productive deer for Forven deer consortium in the South Island.

With this staff it meant that I could no longer manage with one room at home.  Turners and Growers wanted to sell their building on the Main Highway in Otaki and wanted $123,000 for it.  I offered to lease it for 12 months with a compulsory purchasing clause.  I put down $5,000.00 and we were in the building.  After a few months I had the open space at the back of my office converted into a suite of offices and this was let to an optician from Wellington who had a week-end home in Otaki and he was proposing to reduce the Wellington business and up-scale the Otaki business.

I had the property surveyed into three sections and then, because I was trying to operate out of Wanganui also, I decided to reduce the Otaki operation and I put the property on the market and had an unconditional agreement for someone to buy it at $168,000. Contemporaneously with the end of the lease so I asked Mark Wadham, my lawyer, to draw up an agreement and arranged that when the new purchaser paid for the property Turners and Growers would be paid out what they were asking.  That was going to give me a profit of $45,000.00. However, Mr. Wadham said that it was not possible for him to carry out these instructions. I was totally amazed.  I had had experience as a Real Estate agent and this was a common method of settling.  One buys and sells on the same day.  The vendor is paid and the purchaser pays the owner, but Mr. Wadham said that this could not be done.  In the end I had to walk away from it.  In hind sight I should have gone to another lawyer but I was also very busy doing valuations which took me all over New Zealand and I was not paying enough attention to my own business and farm. 

The office was upgraded and became a very respected tea room.  The bulk store was taken over by a despicable character “Fred” McDonald.  He would not negotiate or sign a lease.  He had an Alsatian dog that he threatened me with if I came on the premises.  I got an eviction order against him and he used the same tactics on the bailiff - who died 10 days later.  The squatter’s real name was Geoffrey Raymond McDonald but when his brother Fred went to Australia he assumed his brother’s name.  It is claimed that Geoff had a rape conviction against his name and Fred was so ashamed of the relationship that he left NZ.

There was a Quonset type building on the north side and I upgraded that for my office which included a reception area and two other offices for the assistant valuer and the horticultural consultant. It has been extended and frontage upgraded and is now the outlet for Kathmandu

Though the bulk store was the middle section of the building it did not have electric power, but I realised that Fred had fitted an electric burglar alarm which I could activate at night time by switching the mains power off on my switch board.  I did this whenever I could and then go home and the security people would have to call Fred up from his home at Otaki Beach 5 kms away.

I reported this to the local Power Board Service Manager but he would not take any action.  I went to the general manager who came down and told Fred to remove the wiring which he had run from my switch board, through the ceiling of my offices to the premises he was occupying.  He should have been prosecuted, but every body was afraid of the repercussions if they crossed him.


The police charged Fred and he was sentenced to 40 hours community service.  The prosecuting Police Sergeant said to me outside the Court House that the judge was a “fuck wit.”  I agreed.  The police said they could not bring any other evidence against him as they had nothing on Fred McDonald - but they had a big file on Geoffrey Raymond McDonald.

I was becoming perturbed when doing valuations for RSL (Registered Securities Limited) that the principals of the firm were asking me to drop the indemnity on the valuation, stating that the valuation conforms to the requirements of the Trustees Act and that no more than 2/3rds of the value to be loaned on first mortgage and secured over the title.  RSL were lending over 90%.  In January the Prime Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Palmer, said that RSL knew what they were doing, but I did not agree so I went to Wellington.  I met Allan Wallbank and Jim Sutton and voiced my concern.  Allan and Jim, both farmers, agreed that RSL were risking investments and that I should convey my concerns to the Prime Minister.  I had to get past Mr. Palmer’s Secretary, who told me not to concern The Prime Minister with my concerns.

In July the Rt Hon. Geoffrey Palmer assured the public that RSL were squeaky clean and when their lack of sound business practice was exposed over the next three months, the Prime Minister was forced to resign. RSL went into Receivership with 150 mortgages being defaulted.  I did not carry out more than 20 of the defaulted mortgages nor was any action taken against me.

Fred had a bad reputation around town relating to the rape of a local girl and to assaults and light fingers.  He lost 70 leather jackets out of his shop.   There was a broken skylight but the majority of the broken glass was on the roof - the skylight had been broken from the inside.  My Office girl who had recently left college told me that the pupils visited Fred’s shop - he called it “The Barn, where we sell everything” so they could smoke a joint.

The Power Board boss told Fred to remove the illegal wiring.  I believe they should have had their serviceman remove and confiscate it.  As for the eviction order it was not re-issued by my solicitor.  She advised me to get a padlock and lock the door if the opportunity presented itself.  I had two friends come down from Tauranga claiming they would frog march him out but they backed off when they saw him.  Fred was fully bearded (black) and always wore black spectacles.  I used to describe him as having a face like the backend of a fly blown ewe.

I bought a padlock with a long hasp to suit the full swing galvanised covered door and a few days later Fred walked past my receptionist and into my assistant’s room where the switchboard was obviously to remove the wiring .  So I slipped out as quietly as I could but made a noise when I shut the door into the Barn.  The padlock fitting was on the bottom of the door and in a corner.  Fred heard the door closing and rushed out. He kicked me in the tail bone and pulled me out of the corner and proceeded to attack me with the boot. He broke my glasses and blackened my eye - that was the visible damage.  I don’t know who stopped him but I was able to get back to my office.   My spectacle frame was recovered from the highway minus glass.


When we got settled in at Shannon the two boys, Gregory and Fraser, became quite competent at riding the farm horses.  Our property was quite good for mini trekking.  There were at least five other children with ponies, but their parents did not think they should undertake trekking before having had lessons in fundamental horsemanship.  I thought a social pony club could be a good idea provided it was non-competitive so that the back-biting jealous attitude of the National Pony Club would be avoided.

This format was agreed to at the inaugural meeting in the Plunket Rooms at Shannon, where I was voted to the Chair and Mrs. McCallum was the Secretary.  We initially held rallies in Sparrows/ paddock on Pretoria Road.  A competent horsewoman from the Ormond farm on Okuku Road then joined us. We were then approached by the Committee of the Levin Pony Club and we joined the National movement.  Trevor Everton was the Levin President and Geoff Bedding the Commissioner and was also on the National Rules Committee.

Members of the Shannon Pony Club

Levin Club was in the Manawatu/West Coast area and I attended their meetings at Sanson.  This area ran the NZ Pony Club Championships at Fordell, and I believe it was as a result of my contribution to this event that I was appointed Chairman of the Manawatu/West Coast area.  It was a sore point with Mr. Everton’s successor, Bill Hoskins, and District Commissioner Bedding, as they did little to support any changes or improvements that I suggested.

As a family we went to Australia in 1980.  We hired a campervan and travelled through Victoria and South Australia, making contact with those people of the Pan Pacific Team that we had entertained at Otaki in 1979.

At that time the Pony Club movement was becoming increasingly concerned about the cost of transporting ponies to the Annual Pony Club Championships.  I introduced the suggestion that we send four top riders from the Spingston Trophy and the Timberlands Trophy to go to Australia and ride borrowed ponies, and reverse this in alternate years.  Our Australian counterparts were keen on the idea, and although I did not get any support at that time the idea was taken up in later years.

        Above: Polly (the dam of Star) being loaded out to go to the Riding for the Disabled school in Levin

Clippings of Pony Club activities:

                                                (Note: Click on the above picture to read the text.)



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Chapter 10 - Te Horo and then to Waitotara by Pippa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License