Our History

Established in 1919, our history can be traced against the backdrop of the ever-changing landscape of rural New Zealand. From our country's political and economic policies to innovations in farming and business, we have evolved with the times and continue to build a deep sense of knowledge and belief in our clients and their businesses which is now inherently part of our own DNA.

We are as proud of our history as we are of that of our country and communities which is why we have chosen to share it here with you too.

We hope you enjoy this step back down memory lane as much as we have enjoyed putting it together for you...


  • 1919

    The practice was established in Dannevirke by Archie Runciman, a past mayor of Dannevirke.

  • 1924

    Archie Runciman was joined by Norman Weebley – Archie Runciman retired in 1930.

  • 1928

    Income tax was levied on farmers.  Prior to 1928 no tax levied on farmers because of heavy land tax.

  • 1934

    In 1932, Governor General Lord Bledisloe and his wife purchased the run-down house of James Busby, in Waitangi, Bay of Islands, and gifted it to the nation. It was on the grounds of this house that the Treaty of Waitangi was initially signed on 6th February 1840, known also as New Zealand's founding document.

    'Treaty House' and its grounds were made into a public reserve with a  dedication held on 6th February 1934; the event considered to be the first ever Waitangi Day. 



  • 1935

    Intensive farming and orchards

    Cobalt deficiency in soils recognised. Cobalt is added to superphosphate to help make more intensive livestock farming possible. First commercial orchards of Chinese gooseberries (later known as kiwifruit) are established.

  • 1935

    1935 General electionFirst Labour Government of New Zealand elected under Michael Joseph Savage.

    The First Labour Government of New Zealand was the government of New Zealand from 1935 to 1949. Responsible for the realisation of a wide range of progressive social reforms during its time in office, it set the tone of New Zealand's economic and welfare policies until the 1980s, establishing a welfare state, a system of Keynesian economic management, and high levels of state intervention.

  • 1935

    Harold Ruby joins the practice.

  • 1936

    Reserve Bank taken over by state.

    State housing programme launched.

    Guaranteed prices for dairy products introduced.

    National Party formed from former Coalition MPs.

    Working week reduced from 44 to 40 hours.

  • 1937

    April: Federation of Labour unifies trade union movement.

    March: Free Milk in schools introduced.

  • 1939

    Mr H Rowe Dingle joined the practice – he retired in 1950.

  • 1939

    Bulk purchases of farm products by Great Britain.

    World War II starts with war declared on Germany by Britian and France with Allied Forces, including New Zealand and Australia, joining days later.

  • 1940s

    During this decade the number of New Zealand’s farms using milking machines is over 50%.

    The number of women in NZ employed during 1939 to 1945, while men were overseas during the war effort, increased by 50%. One in ten of all married women took on paid employment.   

  • 1944

    Australia-New Zealand Agreement, known as the Canberra Pact, provides for trade co-operation in the South Pacific, and was likely the first of its kind betwwen the two neighbouring nations. 

  • 1945

    Science helps farm production

    New Zealand scientists produce grasses, clover, crops and breeds of sheep to suit local conditions. Cow population is 1.7 million.

    9 May 1945: VE Day celebrates the end of World War II.

  • 1946

    Family benefit of £1 per week becomes universal.

    Bank of New Zealand nationalised.

  • 1947

    Use of fertiliser spreads.

    Aerial topdressing makes it possible to fertilise hill country paddocks.

    World War II Tiger Moths were among the first aircraft used for topdressing in New Zealand. Here, in 1953, a loader bucket releases fertiliser into the aircraft hopper.

  • 1947

    New Zealand gains full independence from Britain.

    New Zealand Constitution Amendment (Request and Consent) Act 1947 passed, granting Parliament of New Zealand the ability to amend the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852.

  • 1948

    Many aspects of farming are revolutionised with the arrival of the first British-made Ferguson tractor.

  • 1949

    30 November: The 1949 General Election voting saw the start of New Zealand's First National Government, led by Sidney Holland.

    It was a conservative government best remembered for its role in the 1951 waterfront dispute. National repositioned New Zealand in the cold war environment, becoming connected to the United States and Australia via the ANZUS agreement. Domestically, National presided over a steady rise in the average standard of living, and by 1957 New Zealand was, in the words of one historian, "a materialist's paradise."

  • 1950

    Frank Skipper joined the practice.

  • 1950

    Naval and ground forces sent to Korean War.

    New Zealand Legislative Council abolished.


  • 1951

    Prolonged waterfront dispute, state of emergency proclaimed.

    ANZUS treaty signed between United States, Australia and New Zealand.

    The wool boom hits.

  • 1951

    Tanker delivery of whole milk from farms to factory begins.

  • 1952

    Dairy farming intensifies

    Waikato farmer Ron Sharp develops the herringbone dairy, cutting milking times in half. Herd sizes increase.

  • 1957

    Dairy products gain 10 years of unrestricted access to Britain.

    30 November: 1957 General Election, National loses the election, Walter Nash leads Second Labour Government of New Zealand, although this administration was only to last a single term.

  • 1958

    PAYE tax introduced.

  • 1960

    26 November: 1960 General electionNational Government elected.

    The Second National Government of New Zealand (also known as the Holyoake government) was the government of New Zealand from 1960 to 1972. It was a conservative government which sought mainly to preserve the economic prosperity and general stability of the early 1960s. It was one of New Zealand's longest-serving governments.

  • 1961

    New Zealand joins the International Monetary Fund.

  • 1963

    Frank Skipper and Norman Webley retired, leaving Harold Ruby practising on his own.

  • 1964

    New Zealand's armed combat forces join the Vietnam War progressively between 1964 to 1968, sparking protests at home. Force numbers are kept to a minimum and troop withdrawls began in late 1972.  

  • 1967

    10 July: Decimal currency introduced

    Water and Soil Conservation Act passed, addressing water and soil pollution issues. Cow population is now over 2 million.

  • 1969

    John Clarke joined the practice and worked with Harold Ruby till he retired in 1975 – the practice was known as Ruby & Clarke.

  • 1969

    Taranaki farmer Merv Hicks develops the first turnstile milking system – forerunner to the rotary.

  • 1971

    New Zealand secures continued access of butter and cheese exports to the United Kingdom.

  • 1972

    Values Party is formed.

    Equal Pay Act passed.

    25 November: The 1972 General election saw a Second Labour Government, led by Norman Kirk, elected; defeating the governing National Party which had remained in power for 4 consecutive terms. This was to be the shortest-lasting government to that day, voted out after only one term.

    December 1972: NZ troops start withdrawl from Vietnam War. 

  • 1973

    Dairy exports face troubling times as the UK joins the EEC (European Economic Community).

  • 1974

    Prime Minister Norman Kirk dies.

    6th February: New Zealand Day, soon to be name-changed back to Waitangi Day, is observed as a national public holiday for the first time from this year, commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document, on the 6th February 1840.

  • 1975

    The Waitangi Tribunal is established.

    29 November: 1975 general electionRobert Muldoon becomes Prime Minister after National Party victory.

    It was the first general election in New Zealand where 18- to 20-year-olds and all permanent residents of New Zealand were eligible to vote, although only citizens were able to be elected.  While National won a majority of seats in parliament, it did not actually win the majority of the vote.

  • 1976

    New Zealand's National Day 6 February is renamed from New Zealand Day to Waitangi Day

    Matrimonial Property Act passed.

    EEC import quotas for New Zealand butter set until 1980.

    Introduction of metric system of weights and measures.

  • 1977

    Further intensification

    The Livestock Incentive Scheme is set up by the government to encourage farmers to farm more livestock and entice them to stay farming. Export competition results in declining international prices.

  • 1978

    Supplementary Minimum Price scheme (SMPs) is introduced to guarantee farmers a minimum income.

    The Land Development Encouragement Loans Scheme encourages further development of land into farming pastures.

    Fertiliser subsidies encourage the use of fertiliser and lime.

  • 1980

    Grant Ingram joined the practice and became a partner in 1992 – the practice was known as Ruby Clarke & Ingram.

  • 1980

    Year-long wage, price and rent freeze imposed lasts until 1984.

  • 1983

    The Closer Economic Relations Agreement, or CER, is signed with Australia.

    $50 notes introduced into circulation as legal tender, to fill the much needed gap between the $20 and $100 notes. 

  • 1984

    Christine and Murray Donald purchased their first “economic” farm at Wimbledon, Central Hawkes Bay.

  • 1984

    Farming subsidies removed

    Government removes subsidies on fertilisers, weed control, tax breaks and grants. Farmers diversify and are more efficient and more responsive to the market. High country sheep farming declines. Number of sheep peaks in 1982 (70 million). Smaller farms amalgamate.

  • 1984

    Prime Minister Robert Muldoon called a snap election in July, which led David Lange and Labour to a landslide victory, becoming, at the age of 41, New Zealand's youngest prime minister of the 20th century. The Fourth Labour Government came to power amid a constitutional crisis. It rapidly implemented far-reaching constitutional, economic and social reforms; however, the free market ethos of Lange's government did not conform to traditional expectations of a social-democratic party. Finance Minister Roger Douglas begins deregulating the economy. Government devalues New Zealand dollar by 20 percent.
    Read more on the 1984 Constitutional Crisis.


  • 1985

    4 March: New Zealand dollar floated.

    Waitangi Tribunal given power to hear grievances arising since 1840.

  • 1986

    Royal Commission reports in favour of an MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) electoral system.

    Jim Bolger becomes National Party leader.

    Goods and Services Tax introduced.

    The Constitution Act ends the right of the British Parliament to pass laws for New Zealand.

  • 1987

    23rd October: "Black Tuesday", the great Stock Market Crash in recent
    memory. Share prices here plummeted by 59 percent over four months.

  • 1989

    New regional councils take responsibility for water and soil management. Farmers diversify into deer and goat farming. Horticulture becomes popular in better soils. Sustainable use of South Island high country explored – programmes put into place to control rabbits.

  • 1989

    Prime Minister David Lange suggests formal withdrawal from ANZUS.

    Jim Anderton founds NewLabour Party.

    Lange resigns and Geoffrey Palmer becomes Prime Minister.

    First annual balance of payments surplus since 1973.

    Reserve Bank Act sets bank's role as one of maintaining price stability.

    Sunday trading begins.

  • 1990

    Geoffrey Palmer resigns as Prime Minister and is succeeded by Mike Moore.

    One and two cent coins are no longer legal tender.

    Commonwealth Games held in Auckland.

    27 October: 1990 New Zealand general election: National Party has landslide victory. Jim Bolger becomes Prime Minister.

    The Green Party is formed.

  • 1991

    The Resource Management Act 1991 is enacted, rewriting planning law.

    The Resource Management Act (RMA) focuses on using resources to provide wellbeing for people while safeguarding the environment. Landowners take responsibility for impacts of their activities. Tougher environmental standards set in place.

    First budget of new Finance Minister, Ruth Richardson. Welfare payments further reduced.

    The Alliance party is formed, superceding NewLabour.

  • 1991

    $1 and $2 notes phased out of circulation, replaced by $1 and $2 gold coins.

    Consumers Price Index has lowest quarterly increase for 25 years.

    Employment Contracts Act passed.


  • 1992

    Former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon dies.

  • 1992

    Science, forestry, dairy increase

    Crown research institutes are formed for agricultural research, ending research through government departments. Forestry planting expands. Conversion of sheep and beef farms to dairy farms increasing, particularly in the South Island. Nutrient budgeting is encouraged.

  • 1993

    New Zealand First is formed.

    The European Union (EU), in its modern form, is created.

    First Waitangi Tribunal settlement to Iwi is made.

    06 November: The 1993 General Elections returned the National Party to government for a second term. It was New Zealand's last general election under the non-proportional first past the post electoral system.

  • 1994

    Christine Donald (Christine Craig since remarriage in 2014) joins the practice. 


  • 1996

    John Clarke retired, leaving Christine and Grant running the practice – now known as Clarke Ingram & Donald.

  • 1996

    Christine & Murray sold their farm at Wimbledon and purchased 1,000 acres at Motea, much closer to Dannevirke.

    Christine & Murray became Tararua’s first Monitor Farm, a programme run by Meat & Wool NZ to help pass knowledge from the experts to the farmers.

  • 1996

    12th October: The 1996 General Election saw National, led by Jim Bolger, stay in government, but only after protracted negotiations with smaller New Zealand First party, to form a coalition.

    It was the first general election held under the new mixed-member-proportional (MMP) system, producing a parliament considerably more diverse than previous elections. 

  • 1997

    After a leadership challenge, Bolger resigns and Jenny Shipley becomes New Zealand's first woman Prime Minister.

  • 1999

    Reserve Bank introduced an Offical Cash Rate (OCR) at 4.5%, as a means to control inflation.

    27 November: The 1999 General Election. Labour lands a victory in coalition with the smaller Alliance party.

    Helen Clark becomes New Zealand's 2nd woman Prime Minister.

  • 2000

    Christine & Murray won the Scanpower Business Excellence Awards, winning both the farming and the overall business sections.

  • 2001

    Dairy industry deregulated

    The dairy industry is deregulated and two dairy companies merge to form Fonterra. The first cow is milked with an Automatic Milking System. Average farm size 105ha and 286 cows.

  • 2003

    Pollution and farming addressed

    Dairying and Clean Stream Accord highlights water pollution of lakes, rivers and streams due to intensification of dairy farming and promotes sustainable dairy farming. Tax on agricultural gas emissions (‘fart’ tax) proposed. Pollution in Rotorua lakes investigated.

  • 2004

    Farming changes continue

    Amalgamation of smaller farms continues. Number of farms reduced from 71,505 in 1980 to 60,000. Wine, olives and avocados become popular diversifications. Invasive rock snot (didymo) found in rivers. Nitrate becomes an increasing problem in groundwater.

  • 2005

    Christine & Murray purchased another 1250 acre farm at Kumeroa, east of Woodville.

    Former Prime Minister David Lange dies. 

  • 2006

    Grant Ingram retired. Christine ran the practice alone, changing the name to Donald & Associates.

  • 2006

    Five cent coins are no longer legal tender, existing 10 cent, 20 cent and 50 cent coins are replaced with smaller, lighter coins.

    The government announces a NZ$11.5 billion surplus, the largest in the country's history.

  • 2007

    Murray Donald was tragically killed in a tractor accident on the farm at Motea.


  • 2008

    ETS enforced

    Climate Change Response Amendment Act passed to reduce emission of greenhouse gasescaused by human activity. An Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) charges high gas producers as an incentive to produce less. Report criticises dairy industry and high emissions production.

  • 2008

    April: New Zealand signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.

    It was New Zealand's largest trade deal since 1983's CER with Australia, and the first free trade agreement China had ever signed with another developed country. 

  • 2008

    The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) starts to hit markets world-wide.

    New Zealand's economy goes into recession for the first time since 1998.

    08 November: John Key leads centre-right National Party to victory in the 2008 General Election, ends nine years of Labour-led government.

  • 2009

    New Zealand's economy shrinks for the fifth consecutive quarter, making it officially the longest recession in the country's history. New Zealand's unemployment rate hits a nine-year high of 6.5% in the third quarter, as the economy sheds 17,000 jobs. Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard warns of a slow and vulnerable recovery.

  • 2009

    The practice opened an additional branch at Waipukurau, operating solely from Waipukurau from 2014.

  • 2010

    The PSA-V outbreak is discovered, a bacteria that results in death for kiwifruit vines. Speads rapidly, caused widespread and severe impact to orchards and devasting effect to the NZ kiwifruit industry. 

    The industry has since bounced back, having integrated ongoing management of the disease into best practice orchard management. 

  • 2010

    19th November: Pike River Mine explodes and caused the deaths of 29 on the South Island's West Coast, New Zealand's worst mining disaster since 1914.

    Findings from a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the incident prompt then Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson's resignation in 2012, as it concluded the Department of Labour had failed to prevent the accident.

    The following year the Government announced massive changes in occupational health and safety, passing legislation to create a new Crown entity, WorkSafe New Zealand, in late 2013.      




  • 2011

    Cow and sheep population

    Cow population 4.4 million. Average dairy herd size is about 400 cows. Sheep population reduced to just over 31 million.

  • 2011

    22nd February: A 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, causing nearly 200 deaths amid massive damage and destruction with over 11,000 aftershocks.

    The Canterbury earthquakes were the single biggest natural disaster in New Zealand's recorded history and the largest insured event ever to occur in this country; 650,000 insurance claims lodged at a cost of over $32 billion. This led to a change to risk based pricing within the insurance industry world-wide.   


  • 2013

    A new dairy industry strategy is launched that focuses on competitive and responsible dairy farming. Average herd size – 402.

  • 2014

    Christine married Ian Craig, a kiwifruit orchardist and co-founder of OPAC in Opotiki.

  • 2016

    The name of the practice changed from Donald & Associates to Rural Accountants Limited.

  • 2016

    In Auckand, New Zealand's largest city, the average house price tops $1 million.

    UK referendum voters elect to exit the EU, commonly known as "Brexit".

    Donald Trump becomes US President.


  • 2017

    Shannon Harnett (Christine’s daughter) returned to the practice and opened a second branch in Whakatane.

    23 September: Inconclusive 2017 General Election. Labour's Jacinda Ardern forms a coalition government with New Zealand First and The Green Party. Ms Ardern becomes New Zealand's 3rd female Prime Minister and the world's youngest female head of government at the time.

    Paid maternity leave increased to 22 weeks, rising to 26 weeks by 2020.

  • 2017

    Biosecurity issue M. Bovis is discovered at a dairy farm in Oamaru. 182 farms affected and 152,000 cattle depopulated.

    The following year Ministry of Primary Industies move to an eradication programme.  Government, diary and beef industries financially support affected farmers; 1350 claims received for compensation value $105m. 


  • 2017

    Frans Els joined the practice, based in the Waipukurau office.

  • 2018

    Christine, Frans and Shannon formed a three-way partnership called Rural Accountants Limited Partnership.

  • 2018

    1st April: Rural Accountants purchased Whakatane accounting firm, Brian Ritchie Accounting Services.

  • 2018

    1st June: The practice purchased a second Whakatane firm, John Banbury's Whakatane accounting practice, known as Prideaux & Co.

  • 2018

    A Fresh Look, A Fresh Approach!

    June 2018 brings a new brand launch for Rural Accountants, includes a new website and marketing strategies to support the business’s growth plans.

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the 1st New Zealand Prime Minister ( and the world's 2nd) to serve her country while pregnant and to give birth while in office (albeit on maternity leave at the time).




  • 2018

    New Whakatane Office

    After opening a second branch with 3 staff in Whakatane in November 2017, taking on 2 practices and growing to 15 staff within 8 months, October saw everyone move into a brand new office! 

  • 2018

    Government bans overseas buyers from purchasing New Zealand houses in an effort to remedy the overheated property market, particularly Auckland, and allow more Kiwis into first-time home ownership.

    After TPP collapses in 2017, a similar but vastly different, more favourable FTA is signed, involving all original parties except the US, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).   

  • 2019

    Cow and sheep population

    Cow population now 6.4 million. Average dairy herd size is approx. 415 cows. Sheep population down to 27.3 million.

  • 2019

    It's official: Auckland's property market slowed.

    New Zealand's largest property market values dropped for 6th month in a row, average house prices down to approx. $830,000 - the lowest since early 2017.    


  • 2019

    Export earnings are the highest ever recorded to a total of $5.7 billion. Dairy, meat and forestry being the top three earners; China, Australia and Europe / the US being the top markets.

    Reserve Bank cuts OCR to 1%, the lowest rate since records began in 1999. 


  • 2019

    Rural Accountants turns 100!

    What would Archie Runciman make of so many women in accounting  nowadays? 

    More than half of all New Zealand accounting graduates are women and the tipping point, where women will outnumber men in the profession, is not far away.    



  • 2020

    Shannon Harnett Awarded 2020 Nuffield Scholarship

    In November 2019, Rural Accountants Director Shannon Harnett was 1 of 5 awarded a prestigious Nuffield Farming Scholarship for 2020. A highly sought-after New Zealand primary industry scholarship, a Nuffield is essentially a global scholarship with all results fed back to the NZ agri-food sector. 

    Experienced in dairy, sheep, beef & horticulture, as well as involvement in several horticultural start-up businesses dealing with Plant Variety Rights (PVRs), Shannon believes NZ has an exciting opportunity to grow high value, consumer driven produce. Her plan is to research the value that PVRs could contribute to our primary sector. 

What Our Customers Think

As a farmer, Christine understands our business and how farmers and growers operate.

We use Rural Accountants to provide a full accounting service to an orcharding partnership which operates a number of orchards with a wide spread of varieties and management systems. Rural Accountants are always timely and accurate, and their annual financial accounts are extremely easy to understand and very grower-friendly.

Paul Jones, Orchardist
What Our Customers Think

Rural Accountants is a real asset to our business.

The team at Rural Accountants pretty much manage all our administrative tasks for the group including payroll and tax planning, ensuring we don’t pay any more than necessary. They are at the forefront of technology and have helped us get up and running with Xero and Figured which is much more efficient than the way we used to work.

Sam Jones, Managing Director, Sybton Farm Ltd Partnership
What Our Customers Think

Christine is very knowledgeable, great to deal with and knows our business well. She is also a sheep & beef farmer so knows the industry really well and understands our needs.

Rural Accountants keeps us on track through strategic and forward planning meetings throughout the year. Christine knows our business inside out so she can deal with our questions instantly.

Mathew & Gemma Barham, Hawke’s Bay Farmer of the Year 2012
What Our Customers Think

What Our Customers Think

I used to work out my GST and process it manually which would take me at least a full day every two months. Angelina then set up reconcilliations rules and other quick tools, and showed me how to do all my reconcilliations and process my GST returns through Xero which now takes me no time at all!

Mike O'Neill, Financial Services Northland Ltd