Hawkins, William Richard (Bill) Interview
Today is the 22nd May 2016. I’m interviewing William Richard Hawkins, a retired Rural Valuer, and Bill, as he’s normally known, is going to tell us about the life and times of the Hawkins family.
Thanks, Frank. Yes, I’ve done a little bit of research on where my family came from.
My name is Bill Hawkins. I was born in 1945, so I’m seventy years of age, and I had two parents. I had a father by the name of William Arthur Hawkins, and my mother was Ruby Maude Hawkins. My father was born in 1898 and my mother was born in 1902. I was the product of my father’s second marriage.
My father was born in Auckland, he was born in a property in Khyber Pass in the centre of Auckland in 1898, and I’ve been told that he went to Auckland Grammar School for a couple of years, and then he went to Seddon Memorial Technical College in Auckland. He left school at about the age of sixteen or seventeen, and he joined the Post Office and his first job was that of a telegraph boy. When he started work as a telegraph boy in Auckland he quickly learnt Morse code. Morse code of course was a communication skill that a lot of people had in those times. Within two years he found further work and became a naval person, and became a communications person or a radio officer aboard ships at the age of seventeen.
Dad went through the First World War. The first ship that he sailed on was a ship called the ‘Mokoia’ at the start of the First World War. The ‘Mokoia’ in those days was a troop ship which transported First World War soldiers to Britain. Apparently the ‘Mokoia’ was one of the first ships to go through the Panama Canal. So that was the start of my father.
My mother was born in 1902. My mother was the first daughter of seven children. Her maiden name was Jewell, and her father was a Claude Lockhart Jewell. Claude Lockhart Jewell was born probably in about the 1860s. His claim to fame is that he served in the Boer War and I have in the cabinet in my lounge here a pipe that was carved for my grandfather by the Boers when he was taken prisoner, in 1900 I think it was. He was a journalist by trade. His father came from England. My mother was the oldest of seven children and her father was the guy who went to the Boer War. She went to Auckland Girls’ Grammar school for her education. She left school to help look after other members of the family, her two sisters. After that activity she became a Home Science teacher and she was a school teacher in Dargaville, north of Auckland.
My mother and father married in 1938, my mother for the first time, and by which stage she was about thirty-five years of age. Dad was married for the second time. His first wife was a woman by the name of Alice, and previous to that he had an only daughter by the name of Narelle. I’ve only met Narelle probably once or twice in my life. So Mum and Dad married in 1938 and had three children of which I was the youngest son. I have two sisters, Elizabeth who is seventy-five now and I have a sister Julia who’s two years younger than myself.
I was born in the naval base in Auckland, Dad being a mariner. Mum and Dad settled in Devonport after they married and my two sisters lived in Devonport as little people. In 1947 Dad was still at sea, and he served all of his working life with the Union Steam Ship Company, basically as a … what they call a Sparky, or a Radio Officer or Communications man aboard merchant ships. Pretty lonely sort of a life I think, for my father, but he was very well-read, and reasonably well-educated person, obviously with a few brains. So that’s where the Hawkins family started.
I started school at Birkenhead School on the North Shore of Auckland, not very far away from Devonport, before which Mum and Dad had built a house in Birkenhead at the princely cost of £1500 and it was sourced by a State Advances loan … pretty typical of the time, really. So I lived basically all of my early years in Birkenhead. For some reason I guess I was a bit of a rural guy right from the start. I spent a lot of time in my younger years – because my father was away at sea most of the time – Bill was the one who had to keep things going, so he learnt how to fix motor mowers and change light bulbs and do the painting and do all those things. So I was a bit of a ‘do it yourself’ sort of guy. We always got our trolleys from out of the rubbish dump, or our old bikes always came out of the rubbish dump, so that’s the way things were after the war.
Did you play any sports during this period?
Yes I was a reasonably active sportsman – my main forte was tennis. I started playing tennis probably at the age of six or seven. The local tennis courts were very close to where I lived and I became very keen on tennis, and I guess I became pretty good at tennis really. I played tennis all of my school life, all the way through school.
So the high school was in Birkenhead too?
The schooling that I had – why I went to Birkenhead School as a primary school and I then attended a school called Northcote College for my first year at Intermediate School, and I’ve probably got the date here … yes, I went to Northcote Intermediate and was a foundation pupil there in 1956. I attended Westlake High School as it was, in 1958 which in those days was a co-educational school, girls and boys, and after two years in 1960 I became a foundation pupil of Westlake Boys’ High School. I was there on the first day and I started there as a fifth former. And I had a further two years at Westlake Boys’ High School during which time I became a prefect, played for the First XV, and all of my time at that school was a member of the school tennis team which achieved pretty well.
So that was basically my education. In my last year at Westlake Boys’ High School, having been a rural inclined person … the North Shore when I was a young person comprised a lot of vacant land, and it was very much a suburb of Auckland. We used the ferries extensively because the harbour bridge didn’t exist in those days. We used the ferry to go to town, and the North Shore was basically a dormitory suburb of Auckland city. I spent all my school holidays on strawberry patches and outdoor tomato patches where I learnt to grow things. I guess that’s why I still grow things today really.
In my last year at Westlake Boys’ High School I applied for and won a Rural Field cadetship which was the start of my farming activity and my avenue through to eventually becoming a rural valuer. The Rural Field cadet course was a very popular one particularly for people from town locations, although I went through with quite a few rural people off farms. The Rural Field cadetship was a Government run – what you’d have to call a scholarship – it was a five-year course, and when I won the scholarship my mother and father had to guarantee me for a five-year period after that, and during my period of training, and there was a bond associated with that which was £1000. And my father said to me after I won this scholarship – he said “son, we’ve put our money on you and you’ve got to achieve, and if you don’t achieve well, we haven’t got the £1000 anyway”. So I did achieve and that was the Rural Field cadetship that started me into valuation and farm management and all those good things.
Now that was at Lincoln, wasn’t it?
Rural Field Cadetships was actually run by the Lands & Survey Department. It was a State Services Commission Government bursary. Some fairly famous All Blacks came out of Rural Field Cadetships. There was the late Kelvin Tremain, there was Wilson Whineray, there was John Buxton. I can name just three of those guys who did very well at rugby, and sometimes I wondered whether they selected Rural Field Cadets based on their ability to play rugby. But I guess they had some brains too.
So the Rural Field Cadetship was a five-year stint. My first year I spent … after starting at Lincoln College and learning how to drive tractors and kill sheep and ride horses that was part of the starting factor, the practical aspect of things. I went to West Otago and I went on to a farm there at a place called Tapanui, famous for the Tapanui flu. That was in 1964. Soon after I arrived in Tapanui, like within a week of me being there my father died and I went to Auckland. I remember the trip to Auckland, it was the first time I’d flown on an aircraft. I hadn’t earned any wages so my boss prepaid me wages so I could go home to my father’s funeral. So I had a year in West Otago which was a far cry from the streets of the North Shore of Auckland. However I survived there and learned a lot about cropping, sheep farming, a bit of cattle, a wonderful start to my rural career.
In 1965 I was sent to Gisborne, at a sheep and beef property at Rere, up at the back of a place called Ngatapa, and I had twelve months as a cowboy up there. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I got off the railcar from Wellington, met my new boss and he said “well,” he said “I’ve got a horse and two dogs for you at home.” He said “that’s your tools of trade”. So I had a very good twelve months there.
In my third year in 1966 I went to Lincoln, and I did my first two semesters of the Diploma of Agriculture which I passed very successfully. In those days the number of people doing that course was around about sixty students. Not a very big class. So I did the Diploma of Agriculture, I lived on campus – I lived in Ivy Hall, which was one of the old buildings at Lincoln, or the main building at Lincoln in those days – along with a lot of other young fellows who were studying the same thing and we had a hell of a lot of fun but we learnt a hell of a lot too.
At the end of 1966 I was required to go on to a dairy farm. I did a milking season at Otorahonga in the King Country, learnt all about dairying, and milked cows for six months. Got through that – I didn’t profess to want to become a dairy farmer after that but I did my hard yards.
1967 I went back to Lincoln, and I commenced on the Diploma of Agriculture – the second year of that. In those days we were required to flat in our second year, and three other guys and myself found accommodation which was basically a very old and rather decrepit cottage on a property called Patiti, which was about six miles from the College. I owned a Model A Ford in those days, so the Model A Ford was nice and roomy so we used to go to lectures in the Model A. Another guy had a Morris 8 and it was hard to get four guys into a Morris 8 – however, we managed.
Now as it turned out Patiti was a reasonable size cropping farm as well as sheep. The cottage was owned by a bloke by the name of Joseph Potts and fortunately I had occasion to meet my good wife Meda there. She was out dagging some sheep or doing something one day on the farm. I had occasion to say “hello”, and that’s where our romance started. So we sort of went together for about three months while I was at Lincoln.
I then, at the end of 1967, was required to go to Rotorua and I spent time in various Government Departments in Rotorua – the Lands & Survey Department as it was in those days; the State Advances Corporation – later the Rural Bank. I also did some work with the Maori Affairs Department, and I also had some time with a fat stock buyer. So I had a very good rounding of education at the end of my second year of Diploma of Agriculture.
In 1968 I went back to Lincoln having acquired the correct, or the sufficient marks to do the Valuation and Farm Management Diploma, which was a very intensive year, a very hard year in lots of ways – mixture of a lot of lectures, a lot of field trips, a trip through the North and South Islands looking at various types of farming. A lot of our exam questions were based on what we actually saw in North and South Islands. So the VFM year was a very, very important one. That’s where you learnt a lot about valuation, you had a valuation lecturer who taught you all about land and titles and how you actually valued, the quality of country soil types, law relating to it, the economics of farming at the time and so forth. An excellent course.
In 1969 after I’d graduated with reasonably good marks through to VFM, I was seconded to Palmerston North but very quickly they decided that a Rural Valuer was required in Napier and I was immediately sent to Napier as a Rural Valuer within the Valuation Department. Meda and I had a very strong relationship and we married in 1969 and I’m still married to Meda after forty-seven years.
Well just at that point, the area that Meda came from in the South Island was …….
Meda’s background was that her parents were farming people. Her father was a very strong Scotsman and her mother was an English woman, very strong ties there. And her father came from Glasgow and her mother from I think it was in Bothingham [Botheringham] in England. And they still had quite strong accents – Scottish accents and English accents. And Meda was born in Ranfurly in 1945, so she’s the same age as me. She was born in Ranfurly. She tells me that she was born in a snow storm on the side of the road.
And her parents had farming interests – they had a recently large farm at Geraldine which was basically a piece of good freehold land, and that was accompanied by a pastoral lease. In lots of cases farms in that area in New Zealand were a piece of freehold and a large pastoral lease to go with it. Meda’s father was a crack shot and I guess it was because there were so many wallabies and rabbits on the land in the 1940s and 1950s. So they were basically farming-type people, and Meda had very strong sort of rural roots.
So Meda and I married in ‘69. We bought our first house in Greenmeadows after two years of saving for a deposit. We had a fifty per cent deposit in those days, which was I guess pretty strong, but it stood us in good stead all the way through life. So we lived for five years in Greenmeadows in Napier. We bought a 1960s style house, it was a good strong house on a quarter acre section. We repainted it and repapered it and we had no children at that stage but our daughter Kate was born in 1974 after four years of marriage. We lived there until one morning I was sick of the yapping dog next door, and I said to Meda “I think we’d better look for another property, Meda – we’ve done this one, let’s go and have a look at something else”.
So we had a tiki tour around Greenmeadows and looked for another house, and we couldn’t really see anything, and I said to the Real Estate Agent “how about out in the country a little bit?” He said “well funnily enough, I’ve got an old orchard property out at Pakowhai”. He said “you might like the look of this if you want a bit of work”. So we drove out there, and Meda looked at me and I looked at her as we drove down the drive, because we’d been to this property before buying fruit and the like, and we said “oh – we like this property, I think it’s for us” – partly because the property had a lovely big shed on it, very suitable for my activities with old cars and that sort of thing. A very old house, however, the people who had the property on the market were interested in retiring and going to town. They looked at our house in Greenmeadows, they liked it, and we said “well how about we swap?” And that’s what we did – we sold our house for $33,000 and we bought 2.7 hectares of orchard land with a house and big shed for $60,000 and we thought that was pretty fair. So that’s how we got to Pakowhai basically.
Well now, was Meda teaching at this time?
Yes, Meda always taught. She was a primary school teacher, and she taught full-time in our first years of marriage. When Kate was born she stopped work and was a good mother, and then quietly went back into a part-time teaching position, and she’s always taught in various degrees ever since – since our daughter Kate was born. She’s taught as a primary school teacher. She had seventeen years at a decile 1A school in Maraenui in Napier, where she taught predominantly Maori children, and I think she probably deserved a gold watch for doing that. However, she’s been a very strong teacher, particularly of literacy, over the years, a very good person to teach young children to read, a very strong personality, very determined, very patient. She’s put up with me for forty-seven years. [Chuckle]
Anyway, so where are we at?
We’re in Napier now, you’re working with the Valuation Department, you’ve moved house – you have moved to here. Now you’re working for what we would know as the old Valuation Department …
… and you would have been working with some old Field Officers?
So I guess that’s sort of part of my personal history, but as far as my Valuation work is concerned – coming here in 1969, I worked and I was what they call the back end of the carrot … there’s another word for it, but … I basically knew noth… well, I thought I knew everything but I didn’t really know everything when I came here from Lincoln. And Valuation is a … it’s a discipline really, and it’s a discipline that relates to what the property market tells you a property might be worth. And it’s – it’s an expertise sort of an aspect to it really, because you basically have to look at any properties that you’re valuing. And the valuation work that I did for probably twenty-five, twenty-seven years, was with the Government Valuation Department which was basically solely responsible, and to a degree it still is, to maintain the valuation rating database for an entire local authority.
The local authorities that I was responsible for, or part of quite a large team of valuers, was the old Hawke’s Bay County. In those days Hawke’s Bay County comprised … we used to value Hawke’s Bay County in two parts – we used to value the pastoral part of Hawke’s Bay County, and we used to value the Heretaunga Plains which is the highly valuable area of Hawke’s Bay County, and that took us a year each to do those two areas. So the valuation process involved probably about ninety-five per cent of our time out in the country with boots on, walking properties, inspecting properties, talking to farmers, finding out what they had done to their properties over a five-year cycle. It was a five-year cycle for the revaluation of these local authorities originally – well, when I first started. It then became three-yearly probably in the late 1980s – early ‘90s, it became a three-yearly review of the values. But in the early days all of those properties that we valued were all physically inspected. We used to get a boot allowance; we used to also, in some cases, get a saddle allowance whereby we were required to ride horses. We introduced motorbikes into our inspections … reasonably early in the piece with motor cycles … but we did a heck of a lot of walking. We used to basically walk property boundaries, check out fence lines and the like. The database that we had was an amazing database because it had been built up by various rural valuers over a long period of time. So each farm property had a – what we called a field slip – and the field slip contained all details of buildings on the farm, a whole list of the buildings, their measurements, when they were built, also details about water supply to farms, fencing, the description of all the other improvements round the farm, a description of all of the land types, of all the soil types associated with the property, the location from various centres (in other words the locality value of the farm), what sales had occurred over the property over a long period of time, who the purchasers were. There was a Farm Report written every five years as to what was happening on the farm – so a very comprehensive database of basically every farm in Hawke’s Bay. That database is still held by local authorities, although I understand that it’s now back within an organisation called Quotable Value, which is the old Valuation Department. But that database was all paper copy, beautifully maintained. Some valuers had a wonderful hand – in fact I found that my handwriting improved dramatically because we used to write everything down. Some valuers had a great affinity with farm plans – they drew beautiful farm plans. It was all according to a various scale so any fencing that occurred on the farm, you got out your ruler and you measured the amount of new fencing that had been applied to the farm over that previous period of time. You also had to keep up to date with the cost of a lot of farm improvements. In other words you had to know what the nodal cost of a house was, how much a metre of fencing, or how much a chain of fencing cost, what water supply cost – all those things. However the valuation process didn’t necessarily entail adding up all of the costs of these improvements but it was their added value they gave to the farm. Some improvements were of full value, some improvements may not have been any value at all if the improvement wasn’t construed to add value to the property.
Some of it was just deferred maintenance, wasn’t it?
Mmm, it was.
In fact if I could just break in there for a moment, Bill. I became associated as a farmer and then later as a real estate person, and I really feel those old valuers – and I include you as one of the older valuers – they really were very comparative to one another and to where the market was. I’ve worked with modern valuers – some of them it’s just a kerbside valuation, but that’s the reality of time, isn’t it?
Yes, it is. So the rural valuation process, that relates to the valuation database for rating purposes. The Hawke’s Bay County was by far our biggest County, but we also valued Central Hawke’s Bay district as it now is, and there was also a separate county called the Waipawa County in those days. There was the Patangata County, and we also used to value the Dannevirke County, so our inspectorate extended from basically the Mohaka river in the north down to … in some of the later stages we actually valued Akitio County as well, which extended down to the Mataikona River into the Wairarapa. So I had and still have, a very extensive knowledge of all of the pastoral country – well, all rural country – in the whole of that area really.
So that was the revaluation process, but also associated with the old Valuation Department, we were required from time to time to do special valuations for things such as death duty. And when a valuer had to value for death duty he was never particularly popular on a farm, because the deceased owner’s family were very keen that the value be as low as possible because death duties were a pretty significant amount of money. We also valued for stamp duty purposes, which used to be about one per cent of the value of a property.
Other specialised work that we did and which I also did in my private capacity, was compensation work. I’ve done a lot of compensation work over a long period of time. When I went into private practise I had a very good customer, or a good client in the form of the Regional Council – the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council – so I’ve done extensive work for them over the years for purchase of land for the taking of river control works and the like. Probably the largest compensation job that I did was for the Department of Conservation – which was probably about ten years ago now – which involved a controversial property in the Wairarapa. I was seconded to do this work from the Crown Law Office – I was asked to act for Crown Law, which is basically the Government, on a disputed value of a large area of land – or it wasn’t a large area, but it involved a very large property in the Wairarapa, where a coastal reserve, or an esplanade reserve, was required to be taken from the property because there was a subdivision made of that large property. So it involved an expert valuer to determine what the value of eighteen hectares of coastal land a chain wide might be worth, eighteen kilometres long. So with the removal of the Queen’s chain from the property the owner contended that it was worth huge amounts – I shan’t name it, but it was in the millions. And the valuer, yours truly, was very much happy when the result was in his favour, and it was probably about five per cent of what the owners contended value was. So that was a major case which dragged on for about five years. It involved all sorts of inspections and the inspection particularly of coastal property. The valuation date was 1998 prior to the … shall I say the year 2000, when all sorts of things happened on the coast, and people ran for coastal land because it was construed as highly valuable. That seems to have worn off to a degree because we have things like tsunamis and the like which tend to knock things round a little bit, so it certainly knocked the values there. So I’ve done some very interesting work over the years.
You moved here with the children, and the children they went to the local school – obviously primary school over here. Did Meda teach at this school while you were living in Pakowhai?
Meda’s never taught at Pakowhai School but she’s always done relief work either in Napier or Hastings – light relieving work, and as I’ve just described, the seventeen years at one particular school. But both Kate and Ben went to Pakowhai School and they had a very good education there. It’s a lovely little ‘school in the sky’ as we call it. A roll of about forty pupils and it still remains at about forty pupils. The makeup of that school has changed a little bit but basically our little community here was very much a horticultural one and still is, although a lot of the smaller properties are now lifestyle-type properties, of which ours is one.
Would you like me to talk about what the children did? Well Kate, our daughter Kate is now forty-two. She went to Heretaunga Intermediate in Hastings after Pakowhai School. She then went to Napier Girls’ High School, and she boarded for five years at Napier Girls’ High School at Hewett House, because Meda having come from a boarding school environment thought that Kate would benefit from it, which she certainly did. So Kate became head girl at Napier Girls’ High School. I think it was about 1993 [?1991?] and had a very successful education at Girls’ High.
Son Ben went through Pakowhai School as well. He commenced at Lindisfarne College in Form 2 and he had seven years at Lindisfarne College which Meda has always said cost us a bach at Taupo. However, Ben did pretty well at school – they’re both pretty able kids academically.
So Kate went to Auckland University of Technology in Auckland when she finished at school. She did a three-year communication degree and her tutor was one bloke by the name of Brian Edwards, and Brian Edwards was a pretty strong person on the television in his day, and I think he taught Kate a fair bit. So that’s where Kate got her further education. After graduating after three years she obtained employment in Christchurch with Television New Zealand. She specialised in radio, however radio was changing dramatically then. She found herself in television and she worked for a number of years in the Christchurch children’s television programme such as ‘What Now’ and the like, which still continues to this day. So she had a very good start in Television New Zealand. She then, after three years there, went to Canada on her OE … did a similar type of work. She actually worked on radio stations, she went to New York, and she actually worked in Boston in the media industry. She then came back to New Zealand and got work in Wellington with a small film making enterprise which gradually grew into her employment at WETA Workshops, and Kate still works at WETA Workshops, not full time at the moment, but she’s probably had about … at least twelve years at WETA so she’s done very well really, Kate. So that’s where she is at the moment. She’s also part-time because she’s home at the present time with two children. She’s continued with her association with WETA. She’s now produced for a number of years, photobooks of a lot of the photography and a lot of the work done for the various films. She’s been involved with publication of books about “The Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” and all of those books. I’ve got a whole heap of those books in the lounge here, so she’s been … pretty good kid.
Haven’t got to Ben yet. So Ben is a 1978 model. Ben went through Lindisfarne, played a lot of very good tennis. That was his main sport. He represented the school all the way through his seven years at Lindisfarne and he went to Wellington after his seventh form at Lindisfarne – he was a prefect there in his last year, and he did a four year degree in industrial design. You might wonder what Industrial Design is, but it basically is designing things to look right and they have to be produced to create what we have today. Virtually everything that you look at has to be designed, so Ben’s got a good eye for design, really. So he had four years there, graduated and obtained his first job at Fisher & Paykel in Dunedin which was a great start for him. And his first work in Dunedin was that of the dish drawer, which became popular – some people liked them, some people didn’t. However, they’re very convenient and we still have one that’s been going forever. Ben had three years in Dunedin. He then did his OE and worked in design work, and particularly in heating and cooling, in Vancouver in Canada. So he had eighteen months there, then went to London … had various girlfriends and the like all round the world … fortunately didn’t get in tow with any of them and came back to New Zealand and married a delightful girl from Christchurch.
I didn’t go to Kate, but Kate married a bloke from Wellington who’s an electronics engineer so she’s married to him. They both married Kiwis, which we’re delighted about.
Now going back to valuation – there’s been some major changes rung over the years, and now it’s all computer-driven. That must have had a huge impact on all of you valuers – that was the language they all spoke. Would you like to tell me something about that?
Yeah, well my first introduction to computers was I suppose going from a slide rule or a calculator. I remember the … we were required to buy calculators in the 1970s because up until then we used to add up all sorts of figures in our heads, and we were all – bit reticent in buying a calculator because they cost forty quid or something like that, and they were very expensive. But we did use slide rules, then to calculators, and then probably computers started to become part of our valuing life in the – probably the early eighties or something like that. Initially we still did the field work by hand, but of course all of the results of our valuations were punched into a computer and sent to Wellington and that sort of thing, so there was that side of it. But the computerisation – and it happened more particularly in the residential part of things – we used to have to collect … when I was required to be part of say, a residential team … we were required to actually locate within properties – like physically inspecting them – take a whole broad lot of details about the nature of that particular house. Things like, first of all, well one of the aspects being the age of the house, what it was built of, all those things – and it was called Mass Appraisal. So Mass Appraisal was a whole list of characters of that particular house for instance. First of all the location, whether it was good, average, poor, sort of thing. The next one was the quality of the surrounding improvements, the CSI – what was actually round that house, what influence the location and the quality of housing had on that particular property. So the Mass Appraisal really was the first part of computerisation of the value of a particular residential property. We never gathered that data for rural property and I don’t know whether it’s taken now, but in actual fact we always said it was virtually impossible to actually take that because … should I say, the valuation of rural property … it’s the same theory, but it’s a totally different concept because the aspects of each individual property are so unique to that particular property. So that’s where you know, individual judgment and knowledge of the market and so forth all came into your decisions that you made when you wrote down your values.
So we’re still talking about computerisation – so that was the Mass Appraisal aspect of it. Towards the end of my time with Valuation New Zealand we attempted to computerise the value of horticultural properties on the Heretaunga Plains here, and I remember, with another younger valuer we went through to Tauranga where they’d attempted to do this by putting characters against various aspects of horticultural properties. Horticultural properties were a little bit easier insofar as they had some common features there. The land nature was relatively the same, you know, it was flat land or flat horticultural land and that sort of thing. The nature of the improvements, you could have done that with some of the housing. The buildings varied somewhat, but not unduly. There were some likenesses between properties there, but of course we had kiwifruit – well kiwifruit was kiwifruit basically, and in those days of course the kiwifruit market was just – shall I say haywire – it was huge in that area. So we did make attempts to do that, but by the time we decided how to do it on the Heretaunga Plains there was big change with Valuation New Zealand becoming Quotable Value. The way that we used to collect data for horticultural properties was via questionnaire, and we used to have a pretty good feedback on our questionnaires about what varieties were on each particular property. Prior to that when we valued them by foot we used to count the number of trees, [chuckle] and we used to work out how many trees per hectare or per acre based on their spacings and all that sort of thing. So that was the old way. That was the computerisation of the rating database really.
As far as individual valuers were concerned, a little bit because of my age, I never really worked out values on a computer – always used calculators and that sort of thing. But in our latter time with Quotable Value, we used to create indexes for the existing rating database. Now the indexes were based on sales evidence, and I’d have to say that sales for a valuer are his main tool of trade. We used to analyse rural sales down to the last degree. We always made a … well, had to make a point really, of interviewing both the vendor and the purchaser to find out in fact – you know, what his motives for purchase were, what he thought of the property, what he thought its capabilities might be, what its carrying capacity might be. I’ve always talked about … quite often a purchaser of a rural property, even though the male might have done all the bloomin’ sums in the world, at the end of the day it was quite often the wife who decided they should buy that property because the house was nice [chuckle] – nothing to do with the productivity. However those were just some of the observations that I’ve made over the years as a valuer.
One thing we did notice – the kerbside valuations that were fraught with all sorts of …
Yes. Well I guess you could say that the kerbside valuations … once we became a very competitive sort of a thing, there are plenty of valuers round, particularly in Hawke’s Bay here. They offered services that didn’t comply with the requirements of the Valuers Act – as simple as that really. And they were cheapos, and because they were cheap they were inaccurate.
Well, you’ve only got to look at the small amount that the District Council’s were paying Valuation New Zealand to do a valuation of each … there’s no way you could do it in detail.
No – absolutely not.
You were talking about your father being a Sparky in the Merchant Navy. Did you ever know a man by the name of Fred Bradshaw?
Yes, I remember the Bradshaws – they were orcharding people too, weren’t they?
Sylvan Orchard. But he told me stories about the Union Steamship Company – he said they weren’t always very welcomed on board by the Captain. The Captain was Captain outside the Sparky’s room, but inside the Sparky’s room the Sparky was the boss. That was a big shipping company once, wasn’t it?
The Union Steamship Company, certainly was.
So Dad went through both First and Second World Wars. You know, firstly as I’ve just told you, as a young person having picked up the Morse Code from his first job. I’m a little bit hazy on the Second World War, but he was still in the Union company during that time, so he would have sailed in pretty dodgy waters. However, he survived.
You were talking about – Meda was born in Ranfurly – incredible country.
Ranfurly, particularly the Hayes family. Meda’s Mum and Dad were very friendly with Aggie and Ernest Hayes. In fact I think I’ve got a silver tray there that we were given by the Hayes family. And the Hayes were the infamous people who created the – what do you call it –the Hayes strainer. They were engineering people, and they also designed or built windmills. The Hayes windmill. So they had a factory in Ranfurly – that’s where they started that business, in Ranfurly. Ernest Hayes actually had his own hydro-electric scheme there – he created his own electricity to run that industry.
Well, ‘course most of us farmers had Hayes wire strain… I had eight of them.
When you retired from Quotable Value, then you went into and worked with a real estate company, and you were doing different sort of work, or pretty well the same sort of work?
Well no, the work when I was in the private sector basically related to people requiring finance to buy a property, so most of the valuation work was to go to a bank manager in some way, to secure some money to further whatever they wanted to do, or someone wanting to buy a property and requiring finance. So a lot of it was mortgage-related. That was the main part of it. Because I had experience in the bottom end of the old Inspectorate – like in Dannevirke we actually started a part of our valuation practice out of Dannevirke as well, because I had experience in that area as well that I guess assisted the firm to continue with that sort of work because I was the first valuer to actually be employed as a rural valuer within that firm. So Williams Harvey became Williams Harvey after Harvey Coxon, or the disbursement of that partnership.
And so yeah, that was the work that I did. One of the jobs that I did just before I retired, having been pretty much involved in rural, I had to value a property which was a dairy conversion which turned out to be rather a difficult valuation, whereby the absentee owner had spent one huge amount of money on converting a sheep and beef property to a dairy unit, and the dairy unit, because it was really on inappropriate land and deficient in water and so forth, didn’t succeed in doing the production that it was expected to. So – typical of dairy farming of course. You can throw all the money you like at a property to convert it, but if it’s not the right guy doing it you don’t get the milk. That’s typical of some of the work that I had to do … was rather a desperate situation for the vendor who was eventually sold up, as was another property that he owned. So I’ve seen the darkness of …
For you, having the expertise … the broadness of knowledge having done it all before … probably made it – not easy, but you were able to deal with it.
So you had some other loves in your life too, and I’m talking about these elderly cars that you always had a love for, right from University days.
Yeah. Perhaps I’ll just give you a couple of minutes on Model A Fords. Going back to my late father – don’t whether he’d been retired, but he certainly found time to … ‘cause he was an industrious person, a bit like me I suppose. He worked for the McDonald’s Ice Cream Company in Auckland, part-time, and he used to make … I don’t know whether he used to make the ice cream or whatever he did, but in the weekends my father used to bring home an old Model A Ford truck from his place of work. And we weren’t [an] affluent family and we didn’t have a car of our own, but we had this old Model A truck that Dad used to bring home. And I vaguely remember being taken to the beach on the back of this old Model A truck with my two sisters, and Mum and Dad in the front – thought it was wonderful. So I guess I sort of had a bit of affinity to it. So the first vehicle that I bought when I had enough money was a Model A Ford. I owned my first Model A Ford in Gisborne when I was on the sheep farm, which we used to go to footy practise and all that sort of thing. That was the first one. The second one that I bought was when I went to Lincoln, and I had that for two years at Lincoln, which was a 1930 Tudor Sedan which was a two-door sedan which was an excellent car. So I had two of those. I’d have to say that the black Model A that I had at Lincoln was duly sold to buy the engagement ring for my good wife Meda, so that’s what happened there.
So after two or three years I still had a bit of liking for old Model A’s, and I thought to myself ‘well I’d better buy one before they’re sort of gone’. So I bought a Model A truck in 1973 I think it was, and because it had a rounded back on the front seat I knew that it had been originally a touring car, and for some reason I’ve always liked ragtop cars – in other words a top that you can take off and drive in the open air. So over a period of about 5 years I reconstructed a 1928 Model A Ford, which is still in the shed today. So I married a whole lot of components together because the Model A Ford truck, as I say, had originally been a tourer, so I had to find all of the rear body work to make it into a phaeton again. So some of the components – there’re about six or seven different wrecks put into the car over there in the shed today. And I always remember finding the rear quarters for the rear of the car in a rubbish dump just out of Dannevirke, ‘cause I’d heard that there had been a Model A Ford truck there years ago. So I went there one day on revaluation work of course and looked down into this gully and pulled out two quarters. [Chuckle] So that’s the sort of thing that is sort of part of my memory of it really. The hood bows for the car were found up at Pukehamoamoa Station which is not very far out of Fernhill, and they were located by another valuer, because I gave other valuers instructions to look for various bits and pieces. So I went to Pukehamoamoa and I said to the guy who was the manager, I said “you’re not going to do anything with those things up in the rafters are you?” He said “what are they?” And I said “oh, they’re Model A Ford hood bows”. I said “What do you want for those”. He said “oh, a bottle of gin’ll do”. So I duly arrived with a bottle of gin and walked away with a full set of hood bows for the car. So that’s a bit of a liking for old Model A’s, and of course I’ve got another couple of cars there which are relatively modern. 1970s cars really.
They’re quite nice cars though.
Well, they’ve become a little bit collectable. There’s an old Mercedes Roadster and a little Vee Dub Beetle. So I just enjoy doing that sort of thing really. Always have.
So you also said you have some association with the local antique machinery and tractor..?
Yes, I guess over the years I’ve had a long involvement with various clubs – the Vintage Car Club for a number of years. More recently with the Model A Ford Club which is very strong here. It’s a very big Club, the Model A Ford Club. The Vintage Machinery Club of which I’m a member. What other Clubs have I been involved with? The Mercedes Benz Club which I was the President of for about ten years or so, and of course I’ve been a Rotarian since 1983 which is a long time, and I still enjoy my Rotary work as well. Been through various positions of responsibility like President and all those things – probably most of those Clubs really.
And this is with Taradale still?
Taradale Rotary Club, yes.
So other community things, school committees and the like. I do Napier Community patrol still, so I seem to live a fairly active sort of a life in my semi-retirement.
Your community patrol – is this at night or during the day?
You can do it whenever you like to. It’s a four-hour stint. I generally like to do the rural ones because I know the rural roads pretty well.
While you’ve been living here over the years, you did have gate sales, because you had a lot of various fruit types on your orchard block.
Yes, we did. Meda and I ran a gate sales shop here for twenty-five – I think it was about twenty-five years. And basically the key to that was the fact that we had a very large … well, a good sized glasshouse, a three thousand square feet glasshouse, and we used to grow early tomatoes. And we planted about the first week in August and we were producing pretty good tomatoes by the middle of November, during which time the price was still pretty well up there. So that was the key really. We were taught how to grow the tomatoes by Tui and Ron Lissette who sold us the property. And I remember Tui because we were a bit apprehensive about the glasshouse, and she said “look, I’ll run you through the first season,” and she said “I’ll come out and we’ll give you the recipe for that glass house”. Which they did – still got the recipe over in the shed I think, for what you actually did, you know – all the aspects of growing tomatoes in glasshouses. And we grew some jolly good tomatoes, and we were well known throughout the area for ‘Meda and Bill’s good tomatoes’.
And we had mixed fruit. We had a mixture of apple varieties, but we also had early stone fruit – we had early apricots, we had white flesh peaches, white flesh nectarines – the sort of stuff that people really liked around about Christmas time. But of course the supermarkets have taken control of all of that now, and the gate sales trade really fell away and people’s method of buying fruit changed to the supermarket rather than coming out to the country. But we had some wonderful associations with people with that shop, particularly the elderly people. I think they used to come out and say “gidday” to Kate and Ben rather than buy the fruit, but it was a lovely association.
Well that’s relationship selling, isn’t it? Your fruit probably wasn’t any better than anyone else but they liked you as a family, and that’s the key. People quite often miss that sort of thing.
So now that the shop is closed?
The shop is closed and it’s used for storage.
And Meda has retired totally from teaching?
She has. She’s been retired for about a year and a half.
And Bill’s retired apart from little jobs you do still?
That’s great, Bill. Can you think of anything else that we may not have ..?
Well just one comment – one of the things that I still do and I’m reasonably active with, is – I actually work for my older brother-in-law, because he’s not capable of doing the engineering work that I can help him with, which is the testing of the soil. So the testing of the soil sort of comes reasonably naturally to me because having been a valuer over the years I’ve dug many a hole to find out what the soil’s like. So this penetrometer testing is associated with the stability or otherwise of the soil. So I find that a nice little part-time job, and it’s one of those things that I help Bruce with – my brother-in-law – ‘cause he just receives the good results from Bill and sorts out what the answers should be from that, so it’s associated with the land still. I know how to find pegs in subdivisions and so forth. It’s a nice little part time job really.
You’re probably fortunate in some ways that we’re on the edge of liquefaction.
Yes, very much so.
Because that opens a whole new valuation … I don’t think that the locals know the impact that that would have.
No, they do not.
And it’s going to be on every … you know, we know where it all is. Well, pretty well all the Plains.
I think we’ve pretty well covered most of your life – I don’t think we’ve left anybody out. Bill, thank you very much for this interview, and once we’ve got it all organised we will come back and see you.
Thank you, Frank.
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
- William Richard Hawkins
- Meda Hawkins