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Coffee break with Hunter Van Der Fits

Hunter Van Der Fits_Helicopter inspection

Hunter Van Der Fits is one of the young valuers in the Colliers Rural Valuation team and is based in Nelson where he works with Blue Hancock to gain experience in various rural markets – forestry, pastoral, dairy and horticulture.


Van Der Fits was the recipient of the Colliers Rural Valuation Scholarship in 2019 when he was completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Valuation at Lincoln University, which is his fourth qualification.


One may say he took the long route to rural valuation, but Van Der Fits says the seed was sown in 2019/20.


“I probably did it a bit differently compared to most other young rural valuers, but I have no regrets and feel the varying qualifications differentiates me in the industry. I started at Lincoln doing a Diploma in Agriculture and a Diploma in Farm Management. I grew up on a dairy farm in Manaia, on the coast of South Taranaki, and the long-term plan was always to go farming. While at university, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do before that, and I was thinking, initially, about a career in rural banking, before going back to farming.


“This is what prompted me to do the Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) degree. The first two diplomas were more farming related, but also allowed me to complete the bachelor’s degree in two years. Doing the diplomas was a great experience as the classes were much smaller and allowed me to get more out of the learning experience and engage with the lecturers. I am still in contact with some of my lecturers, whose topics I enjoyed."


How did Rural Valuation come to replace Rural Banking?


As part of the degree, I picked up some rural valuation papers as the subject interested me. This is how I met Ed Percy, one of the lecturers. I really enjoyed his teaching and we got on really well. I was working on a dairy farm in Bankside near Rakaia, fulfilling my practical work requirements when Ed got in touch and talked about a career in valuation. This made me think seriously about rural valuation as I enjoyed the work we did at Lincoln and Ed had the potential to open some doors for me. This is how I came to do the Post Graduate Diploma in Valuation in 2019/2020, as I had to complete the programme to be able to practice as a valuer.


After I enrolled, I was encouraged to apply for the Colliers Rural Valuation Scholarship, which I was later awarded. The money is always appreciated as a student, but I also got to meet the team in Christchurch and find out more about the workplace environment at Colliers. This led to an internship with the Canterbury team – I was able to spend the summer between the semesters working in the Christchurch office and even though it was for a short time, I was sold.


One thing led to another and after graduating an opportunity to join Blue Hancock in Nelson presented itself. The prospect of moving to an unfamiliar region, starting a new job, and learning new markets seemed like a daunting task. Coming from a dairy background, I had intentions of joining the Canterbury team to master the dairy market but having met them previously their support gave me the confidence to thrive in Nelson.

The broad spectrum of work that we do out of Nelson and the different learnings that come with it is amazing and I am glad to have started my career here. There’s a diverse range of sectors within rural valuation, including a national market such as forest land to large-scale hop gardens, a sector very much specific to our region only, plus apple orchards, dairy farms, and pastoral blocks. The work also covers a range of valuation purposes, including rent reviews, Māori litigation, retrospective valuations, mortgage finance, financial reporting, and compensation. It keeps you on your toes, and the opportunity to learn never stops, which I enjoy.

What do you like best about your work the most at the moment?


The variety of work keeps things interesting, both in terms of the type of farms and scale of properties. A quote I often hear from Blue Hancock pretty much sums it up: "We get paid to travel the back roads of New Zealand.


Inspections are an enjoyable part of the job and getting out of the office is always welcome. We even get the rare property that needs to be inspected by helicopter, which is always pretty special. You don’t get to experience that in most jobs.


Most of all though, I really enjoy the interactions with the farmers and people you meet on the job. It’s always good to get the opportunity to chat with them – their wit, experience, and intelligence and the laughs we share.


I guess with a valuation career you get the best of both worlds. On a cold rainy day, you can dive into the numbers and crank the reports out, but on a nice sunny day, you can go out and about to inspect. The weather isn’t always co-operative on our multi-day inspections, sometimes getting drenched or blown away, but those are usually the ones you remember.


How about the move to Nelson?


Sunny Nelson is a great place to live and work, it is very much an outdoorsy place which suits me well. Beaches, rivers, lakes, trails and mountains are all located just a stone's throw away together with a range of stunning natural landscapes to explore. I am a fairly active person with rugby, touch, tennis, cycling and tramping taking up a lot of my free time. There is also a number of eateries and craft breweries of all sizes to try out. I thoroughly enjoy the lifestyle and weather in Nelson.


What comes next?


The next big milestone is probably my registration exam. Time flies so quickly and it is hard to believe that I have ticked up nearly two years at Colliers. Once registered, I may reward myself with a travel break and see a bit of the world.


Further down the track I would like to head home and establish a Colliers Rural Valuation office in New Plymouth. There is a lot of opportunity up there for work and probably not enough valuers to do it. The firm is aiming to expand its geographical presence. The region is also attracting a new generation of young professionals, which creates a great work environment too.


I come from a very close family. When my Oma and Opa (Dutch for grandparents) and some friends moved over to Taranaki from Holland to go farming, they set up their own small Dutch community, which has since expanded. Holidays and birthdays are typically spent with family celebrating and enjoying each other’s company. I have an older brother in Melbourne who is returning home and a younger sister teaching in Christchurch so it would be nice to establish myself closer to home when the time is right.


Giving dairy farming a go is still on the cards at some point and I often say that if I was not valuing the land, I would be farming it. I still spend most of my time when home helping out on the farm, although I do cop a bit of grief over my now soft office hands. I do miss the physicality of farm work, working all day under the elements and looking after the animals. But for now, I have a few things in the valuation scene that I want to achieve.


Anything you want to add?


For the record, I don't drink coffee, but I am happy to enjoy the company of those who do.


Read more about our team:

Meet Karen O'Donovan, our Finance & Business Operations Manager
Luke van den Broek joins the Rural and Agribusiness Valuation team in Canterbury
Colliers Rural Valuation team is growing by attracting young talent
Jeremy Ryan receives Colliers Rural Valuation Scholarship
Rural Valuer Jack Powell moves to Blenheim office

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Hunter van der Fits

Valuer | Rural Valuation

Richmond (Rural Valuation)

Growing up on a coastal dairy farm in Manaia, South Taranaki has provided me with a robust rural backing and passion for the agriculture sector. University holidays spent working on a range of farm types and systems has also broadened my knowledge and understanding of what drives value.

I spent four years at Lincoln University and completed a Diploma in Agriculture, Diploma in Farm Management and Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) before working on a dairy farm for six months fulfilling practical work requirements. I was then talked into further study, completing a Graduate Diploma in Valuation in 2020 and received the Colliers Rural and Agribusiness Valuation Scholarship.

My 2019/20 summer was spent at the Christchurch office working alongside the senior valuers gaining valuable experience of rural property valuations before finishing up my studies and joining the company full time in September 2020. I have teamed up with Blue Hancock at the Colliers Richmond office to provide market valuations for a range of farm types. I am working towards becoming a fully registered valuer with Colliers.

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Blue Hancock

Director | Rural Valuation

Richmond (Rural Valuation)

Blue has over 40 years valuation experience encompassing rural and resource interests, specialised agriculture  assets, public sector property (especially forest interests), expert evidence and management. His prior work in senior roles with both Valuation New Zealand and Quotable Value has given him broad property knowledge – with a particular emphasis in the forestry sector.

His client work has traversed a range of property types and issues including; forestry land valuations (lessor and lessee interests), Emission Trading Scheme issues, specialised assets, agribusiness, lifestyle subdivisions, valuations for financing, tax compliance, trust formation, relationship property disputes, Maori land issues, aesthetic land and compensation. In addition he has provided expert evidence and acted as an arbitrator in a number of judicial contexts. He has given evidence in the Valuation Tribunal, High Court, and Enviroment Court.

Blue’s work previously encompassed managing the rating revaluation and roll maintenance programmes for six local authorities in the South Island, giving an in-depth understanding of rating issues and the valuation of exotic forest land and national parks, and acting as Principal Consultant (Rural and Forestry) for Quotable Value. Blue’s more recent large-scale engagements have included the valuation of forest assets in Otago, Nelson, Marlborough, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and Northland for due diligence, financial planing or reporting and Treaty of Waitangi settlement purposes, as well as Crown Forestry License rent reviews. .

Blue’s personal involvement in agribusiness extends to ownership of a West Coast pine plantation and membership of the New Zealand Institue of Forestry and Farm Forestry Association. As past President of the Property Institute of New Zealand and former President of the New Zealand Institute of Valuers, Blue is highly regarded by both his clients and peers in the profession. He is based in our Nelson office and plays a key role in our agricultural and forestry sector practices and in our dairy pastoral and horticulture valuation teams..

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Ed Percy

Director | Rural Valuation

Christchurch (Rural Valuation)

Ed has over 20 years’ experience in property valuation and agribusiness throughout New Zealand. He is based in Christchurch and travels regularly to the regions. Prior to joining the Colliers International Rural and Agribusiness valuation team he was a senior valuer and business manager of a valuation firm in Central Otago which covered the lower South Island and spent four years as a farm manager on a sheep and beef farm in the Wakatipu Basin. Ed has also practiced as a valuer in Nelson/Tasman, Wellington and the Wairarapa.

Ed has agricultural and forestry interests in the lower North Island, completed the Kellogs Rural Leadership Programme in 2010 and obtained a Master of Property Studies degree in 2015. He has broad property related experience in both urban and rural sectors focusing more recently on specialized rural and commercial assets and the impact of nutrient regulation on land values.

Having spent a good portion of his career in agribusiness and partnering with rural businesses around New Zealand, Ed understands the challenges of the rural sector in changing current economic and political climates, and appreciates our clients need for quality specialist property advice.

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