A fifty-year partnership that's still going strong

Celebrating one of Baker Tilly Staples Rodway’s longest – and most fruitful – partnerships

Time to read: 6 mins

Workhorses, hearty, generous, and head-strong are just a few words we would use to describe our clients, Martin and Lyn McTamney. Another, we are proud to say, would be friends. The evolution of their business from sharemilkers to kiwifruit and tourism pioneers is testament to their vision and work ethic. We’ve been proud to have been their business advisory partners for 50-odd years, helping them navigate all their new challenges and opportunities, and seeing them go from strength to strength. As we like to say at Baker Tilly Staples Rodway, this job isn’t about numbers – it's about people, and our enduring relationship with the McTamneys is the perfect example.

Martin and Lyn began their professional careers as sharemilkers in South Taranaki in the mid 60s. Martin would milk around 200 cows a day year-round while Lyn would manage the labour, the pair working tirelessly through broiling summers and damp, frosty winters. Eventually the couple moved to a larger share milking job at Paterangi, before going on Te Awamutu, where they invested in a 94-acre farm of their own.

This is the trajectory of many central North Island farmers at the time as dairy growth continued, becoming the engine of our economy. During this time the McTamneys got to know Bruce, coming to him for counsel on taxation requirements, their annual accounts, and the usual sort of advisory work required by rural business owners. However, by the time they became Chris’s clients in the late 90s, their business had drastically changed.

Due to limitations of the land that prevented them up-scaling the dairy farm, the couple gradually made the switch from milking cattle to growing kiwifruit – much to the surprise of their neighbours and the South Waikato community. Lyn says their business was once considered a bit of a joke around town. Kiwifruit was a fad for those strange types in the Bay of Plenty.

This reputation didn’t last long. If dairy was one pillar of our economy, the other was tourism, which Martin and Lyn had been ahead of their time in recognising. It was around this time tourists from Asia and other markets began to see New Zealand as a holiday destination, and there was a real fascination with the big hairy berries from overseas visitors. Friends with a bus driver who conducted round trips through the North Island, they arranged for their farm – which was still mostly dairy at the time – to be one of the tour’s stops on the way to Waitomo Caves.

Looking on as a responsible accountant and business advisor, the venture was a definite risk. We definitely had a few questions for Martin and Lyn when they started to diversify their business further away from dairy, but it was clear their minds were made up and they had every faith in their decision.

Starting with one bus a day, demand for kiwifruit tours grew even faster than the crops. It eventually forced Lyn and Martin to sell their cows. Operating every day, including Christmas, up to 20 tourist buses per day would make the trip to the small McTamney farm to see the kiwifruit groves.

Martin even put on a sausage sizzle to keep his customers fuelled up and happy. As you can imagine, the Ministry of Health had a few thoughts on this. So, the next task for helping Martin and Lyn was setting up a fully licensed restaurant on the property, which could seat around 100 people and had 10 on-site staff. Lunch became a key part of the tour, including cakes, desserts and full-scale home-cooked meals. Despite being a mother of five, Lyn would manage the newly launched restaurant, as well as the administration of the tours. To make the most out of the traffic, Martin and Lyn instinctively started offering kiwifruit merchandise – including kiwifruit wine, kiwifruit toys, recipes, even kiwifruit chutney. People just couldn’t get enough.

If you knew Martin, it was unsurprising that he became the de facto tour guide for the operation. A character and a natural people-person, Martin could get along with anyone regardless of their background. When leading tours around the farm, besides explaining the growing process and potential of the fruit he would also entertain the international visitors, and you would often hear a lot of laughter coming from the groves. Japanese tourists in particular got a real kick out of his showmanship.

The farm grew to be so popular that it became a common location for weddings, which would often be held in the weekends.

We would visit the farm at least once a year, which was always a highlight. It was a thrill to have the McTamneys as a client for so many years, both because they are wonderful people, and to see firsthand their entrepreneurial vision lead to such success.

After years of hard work to meet the continued demand for their business, Martin and Lyn began to plan for retirement, winding down the tourist arm of the business. To help protect the family investment, we helped set up a trust for the land, investment properties and other assets. Regarded as a firm friend of the family, Bruce became a trustee on the board.

After knowing the family for over 20 years by that point, we were unsurprised when they started looking for ways to give back to the local community. For years Martin had been raising money for young athletes through the Te Awamutu Cornerstone Trust, auctioning signed gear from famous athletes. Martin would often secure it himself, more than happy to reach out to stars like Bob Charles, Brian Lochore and Yvette Williams to name a few. It was a truly sad day when Martin passed away in 2018, but we know he inspired a lot of trust members to continue his work in supporting kids to pursue sport.

Even after his passing, the family’s generosity never seemed to stop, and we continued providing advice on ways they could support a range of charities. Notably, the McTamneys elected to support St John New Zealand through its ambulance fundraising programme, after seeing an advertisement from the charity seeking donations for a new local ambulance. Rather than providing a donation, the family decided to generously pay outright for a brand-new ambulance, given in the name of the family’s Akona Trust. That is just the kind of people they are.

Continuing the partnership between Baker Tilly Staples Rodway and the McTamney family has been a career highlight for both of us. Walking with them through different business and life stages, and becoming friends along the way, has been a privilege.