End of an era . . . Timaru valuer Ian Fairbrother is preparing to retire, ending a career that he began as a 17-year-old school-leaver. PHOTO: CLAIRE ALLISON

by Claire Allison

With a valuation career spanning more than 40 years, Ian Fairbrother probably knows more about Timaru properties than most.

But come August 31, Mr Fairbrother will call time on the career he began as a 17-year-old high school leaver.

The timing is significant. His first day of retirement will be September 1, the beginning of Blue September, the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s annual awareness and fundraising campaign.

Three years ago, Mr Fairbrother was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he is now passionate about spreading the word.

“Men over the age of 40 need to have a PSA [prostate-specific antigen] blood test every two years, and from 50, every year. I didn’t do that,” he said.

“So while my health is still good, I decided to get out.”

He had a few things planned: pottering around in the garden, training his German shepherd, doing some voluntary work and continuing to follow his favourite football team, Manchester United.

“I’m looking forward to just being able to relax, and my time being my own.

“Even just to put my feet up every now and again with a good book, and spend quality time with my wife Jacqui.

“One thing about cancer is that you learn you’ve got to make the most of every day and not sweat the small stuff.”

Over his 40-plus years in the industry, while the principles of valuation had remained the same, the tools of the trade had changed enormously circular slide rules of the 1970s through to battery-powered calculators, from films being to be processed to today’s smart phones and iPads and the availability of so much information on the internet.

Born in Timaru, Mr Fairbrother attended Marchwiel School and then Timaru Boys’ High School, where he gained UE accreditation at the end of his sixth form year.

Maths was one of his strong subjects, and he enjoyed economics, accounting and technical drawing, so he decided to apply for a job with the Valuation Department in Christchurch as an urban field cadet.

“It all fitted together with becoming a valuer.”

He also talked to Timaru valuer Alan Marret about the job.

“He said it’s a good job when it rains you can be in the office, and when it’s a nice sunny day, you can get out and measure in the field.

“That was a nice idea, but I’ve been out in the rain measuring up plenty of times.

“But I knew I didn’t want to end up being stuck in an office every day, and that still rings true to this day.

“You meet a lot of interesting people, and the jobs are all different.

“There could be worse jobs.”

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Valuation Department took on five cadets each in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, so at just 17, Mr Fairbrother moved to Christchurch to begin his four-year course.

“When I look back on it, it was really good training.

“There was a mix of lectures during the day and a few at night, plus on the job training as well.

“We’d do six months on a building site to understand construction, and do papers on law and quantity surveying.

He worked a couple of years in the Hokitika office, getting experience in a small branch, before transferring back to his home town of Timaru.

Valuers in New Zealand were the Valuers Act 1948, which puzzlingly stated that valuers had to be at least 23 years of age to register, and have had three years’ practical valuing experience.

“So I had to sit there and wait until I was 23 before I could apply for registration.”

Mr Fairbrother moved back to Hokitika for a promotion to senior valuer in 1984, then moved to Invercargill as a district valuer, and had a brief stint in Australia, then Christchurch, before returning to Timaru in 1989 for good.

He remained with the Valuation Department through a couple of name changes Valuation New Zealand and Quotable Value was shoulder-tapped to set up a Timaru office for private company Telfer Young.

While most of his more recent work had been in the commercial and industrial sector, Mr Fairbrother had seen plenty of residential properties.

“I suppose I have been into a lot of houses,” he said.

“Some properties stick in your mind more than others, especially if they are quite unique; I can remember properties that I was in 20-odd years ago, and it’s interesting if you’ve valued previously, and you go back 20 years later and see the changes.”

He counted himself lucky to have worked with and learned from many outstanding valuers who went on to be at the top of the profession, and said he had done his best to continue the tradition of passing on knowledge.

“I appreciated that training, and so I’ve mentored a number of valuers over the years to get their registration and move on to bigger and better things.”

In 2015, Mr Fairbrother was made a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Valuers and the Property Institute of New Zealand, for services to the profession.

“That’s been one of the highlights in my career, being able to pass on that knowledge.”