Our History

Established in 1919, our history can be traced against the backdrop of the every 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 enherently 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.

  • To 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.

  • 1924

    Archi 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.

  • 1935

    General election: First Labour Government 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[1] 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.

    War declared on Germany.

  • 1940s

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

  • 1944

    Australia-New Zealand Agreement provides for co-operation in the South Pacific.

  • 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.

  • 1946

    Family benefit of £1 per week becomes universal.

    Bank of New Zealand nationalised.

  • 1947

    Use of fertiliser widespread.

    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.

  • 1950

    Frank Skipper joined the practice.

  • 1950

    Naval and ground forces sent to Korean War.

    New Zealand Legislative Council abolished.

    The wool boom hits.

  • 1951

    Prolonged waterfront dispute, state of emergency proclaimed.

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

  • 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: General election, National loses election, Walter Nash leads Second Labour Government.

    The 1957 elections marked the beginning of the second Labour government, although this administration was to last only a single term.

  • 1958

    PAYE tax introduced.

  • 1960

    26 November: 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.

  • 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 to the United Kingdom.

  • 1972

    Values Party is formed.

    Equal Pay Act passed.

    25 November: General electionLabour Government led by Norman Kirk elected.

    The Labour Party, led by Norman Kirk, defeated the governing National Party which had remained in power for 4 consecutive terms.

  • 1973

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

  • 1974

    Prime Minister Norman Kirk dies.

  • 1975

    The Waitangi Tribunal is established.

    29 November: New Zealand general election, 1975Robert Muldoon becomes Prime Minister after National Party victory.

    It was the first general election in New Zealand where 18- to 20-year-olds[1]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 a majority of the vote.

  • 1976

    New Zealand's national day 6 February 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

    CER agreement signed with Australia.

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

  • 1984

    Christine and Murray Donald purchased their first “economic” farm at Wimbledon CHB.

  • 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

    When Prime Minister Robert Muldoon called an election in July 1984 Lange led his party 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.

    Constitutional Crisis 

    The Reserve Bank advised the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Muldoon, that the dollar should be devalued. Muldoon ignored the advice, owing to his belief that it would hurt poorer New Zealanders in the medium term. In June 1984 Muldoon announced a snap election to be held in July. This caused an immediate run on the dollar, as currency speculators believed a Labour win would mean devaluation. Despite a deepening foreign exchange crisis, Muldoon continued to refuse to devalue, forcing the Reserve Bank to take some extraordinary steps, such as closing the Forex markets for a short period of time to slow down devaluation.

    Government devalues New Zealand dollar by 20 percent.

    Finance Minister Roger Douglas begins deregulating the economy.

  • 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

    Stock Market Crash: Share prices plummet by 59 percent in 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.

    First elections under revised local government structure.

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

  • 1991

    The Resource Management Act 1991 is enacted, rewriting planning law.[33]

    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.

    Employment Contracts Act passed.

    Consumers Price Index has lowest quarterly increase for 25 years.

    Welfare payments cut.

  • 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.

  • 1994

    Christine Donald (now Christine Craig) joins the practice. 

  • 1996

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

  • 1996

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

  • 1996

    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)

  • 2000

    Christine & Murray won the Scanpower Business Excellence Awards winning both the farming section and the overall business section

  • 1997

    After leadership challenge, Bolger resigns and Jenny Shipley becomes New Zealand's first woman prime minister.

  • 2001

    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.

  • 2006

    Grant Ingram retired and Christine ran the practice alone – at this stage the practice was called Donald & Associates.

  • 2006

    Five cent coins are dropped from circulation and existing 10 cent, 20 cent and 50 cent coins are replaced with smaller coins.

    The government announces a NZ$11.5 billion surplus, the largest in the country's history and second only to Denmark in the Western World.

  • 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

    John Key leads the centre-right National Party to victory in a general election, ending nine years of Labour-led government.

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

  • 2009

    The practice opened another branch at Waipukurau and operated solely from Waipukurau from 2014.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 who was a kiwifruit orchardist and co-founder of OPAC in Opotiki.

  • 2016

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

  • 2017

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

    Inconclusive parliamentary elections. Labour's Jacinda Ardern forms coalition government.

  • 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

    Rural Accountants purchased Brian Ritchie’s accounting practice (Brian Ritchie Accounting Services) in Whakatane.

  • 2018

    The practice purchased the Whakatane accounting practice of John Banbury called Prideaux & Co.

  • 2018

    A Fresh Look, A Fresh Approach

    New brand launched with a website and new marketing strategies to support the business’s growth plans.

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