Entrepreneurial spirit shows itself in early schemes

Ian Hurst and his then girlfriend, now wife, Gloria in the early 1970s. Photo: Supplied
Ian Hurst and his then girlfriend, now wife, Gloria in the early 1970s. Photo: Supplied
As Hurst Holdings Ltd director, a Waitaki District Health Services Limited board member and Observatory Village Trust trustee, former All Back Ian Hurst, of North Otago, has done all right for a farmer’s son.

Hamish MacLean talks to him about his first job and pay packet.

Ian Hurst began life with an entrepreneurial spirit. He plucked wool, packed it up and took it to town. He picked rosehips to sell for "fivepence a pound". And because the family farm was on the road between the dry town of Oamaru and the Georgetown Hotel, in the early 1960s he picked up beer bottles discarded at the side of the road as people headed home after the  six o’clock swill — he collected a penny a bottle.

Mr Hurst became an All Black in the early 1970s when the world-beaters were still amateurs. His daily reimbursement of £150p  (roughly $NZ4)  for a four-month tour while playing in England, Ireland, Scotland and France was better suited for a young man like Mr Hurst than one with a family back home.

"[It]  would buy us a pint of beer, a stamp to send a letter home, and it would give you about two minutes on a phone call back home to our loved ones."

Then, in 1974, the future rich-lister was offered a role on staff at Lincoln College, where he had earned a bachelor of agricultural commerce degree, majoring in valuation.

He earned $4800 a year in his first year as a working man. He lived with his wife Gloria in a Springston home. Gloria was a primary schoolteacher and the money Mr Hurst earned was enough to run a car and survive on.

Ian Hurst. Photo: Hamish MacLean
Ian Hurst. Photo: Hamish MacLean
The college, now Lincoln University, cut Mr Hurst a cheque and mailed it to his home.With home-kill sheep in the freezer and a vege garden, the young couple lived a "very frugal life".

"Fish and chips were a treat, we used to socialise, we were still living the student life, we drank beer — beer was it," he said.

"The only wines that were available in those days were a tragic drink, Montana’s first efforts in the wine industry called Cold Duck, a sparkling rose wine, awful, awful stuff.

"A lot of people will remember Cold Duck."

Mr Hurst drove a chocolate brown Morris Minor with a vinyl roof.

His suit, made for him in Hong Kong on a return from an All Blacks tour was "silvery grey  ...  with bell-bottoms on it".

But when one of the two principals was unavailable, or ground data was required, he would head out to a farm to assess the land value, capital improvements, stock water schemes, drainage schemes, the standard of fencing, buildings and the like ...  and he got back into the corduroy and moleskin more appropriate for a rural Southern man.

"The capital growth in properties has exceeded all wild expectations," Mr Hurst said.

In 1974, dealing with values of  $100 a stock unit, five sheep to an acre on good productive land would put an Otago farm at about $500 an acre, or $1250 a hectare.

"That same land today, with dairying, is going to be between $45,000 and $55,000 a hectare."

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