I promised in my last letter to address the matters of property and agriculture in this epistle. Well rather strangely both topics come to mind as a result of two natural disasters that l have experienced here in New Zealand.
On Tuesday 22nd February 2011, l was about to take luncheon in The Christchurch Club situated behind the Cathedral when all hell let loose when the earthquake struck. It wrecked the CBD and destroyed buildings both commercial and domestic across the city.
From the ashes have risen buildings of beauty and buildings of nasty, practical, economic haste. The private, rebuilt homes have generally shown imagination and taste. Houses full of light, brightness and height; challenging and exciting in construction, original and varied in the use of materials, attractive to the eye and far more suitable for modern purpose than their forbearers. Christchurch property prices have soared, many home owners have rebuilt with insurance money and downsized at a healthy profit.
Homes are sold more often by auction. Nearly all home dwellings go under the hammer. Open days are popular for the interested, the inquisitive and the downright nosey. Auctions are particularly popular for the distinctive, quality homes as competition and the hype of the occasion often ratchets up prices. The cheaper houses find commissions and administration charges slightly too weighty. But who am l to write about property auctions when within the ranks of The Property Chronicle lies the doyen of such matters. Clive Emson has proved over the years how popular such means of house selling can be. I attended an auction; four lots on offer. The first took nearly half an hour to sell as we had a lengthy description of the place and the area, a massive build up, very slow bidding, a long ‘negotiation’ session in a private room and then a detailed pronouncement. One lot sold, the other two never reached reserved price.
Another of The Property Chronicle’s contributors of late is New Zealand farmer and finance expert Forbes Elworthy. I therefore do not need to go into general farming matters, but the second natural disaster leads me into a more niche form of agriculture, or possibly horticulture.
On 20th February 2018, Cyclone Gita raged across the top of The South Island. Its combination of high winds and heavy rainfall served up swollen rivers, flooded paddocks and fallen trees all over the district. A state of emergency was declared in Golden Bay. I was in Golden Bay along with my brother. He is a farmer who grows arable crops, apples and pears and hops in Kent. He was visiting New Zealand to see the hop crop in the Motueka/Riwaka/Tapawera districts and see the picking and drying processes. Alas owing to Cyclone Gita we were for a while stuck in Golden Bay, ‘marooned in Paradise’, normally an absolute joy but on this occasion an inconvenience as deadlines, arranged meetings and return tickets home needed to be respected. Eventually we were ‘released’ and we drove out on the one connecting road over The Takaka Hills to the hop growing area. Incredible work had been done by the Roads Department. We crept over the hill at a snail’s pace with an escort in small groups five days after the storm. Drone pictures had shown parts of the mountainous road washed away and likely to take weeks to repair. Somehow emergency work had prepared a single lane opened for short times as major road works are needed that will, l expect, take several months.