Katie Holland is the Rotorua Daily Post deputy editor

Accountant Ian Hulton ready for biggest move yet

 It's fair to say Rotorua's Ian Hulton would have seen a few changes over his long career.

But after 40 years in accounting, 31 of those heading his own practice, Mr Hulton is preparing for perhaps the biggest change yet - retirement. The Hulton Patchell director will step away from the business at the end of March along with wife Carol, the firm's share register manager.

"We're looking forward to retiring," said Mr Hulton. "It's been a busy lifestyle. We need to have a bit of time for ourselves and family."

Known for his work with Maori trusts, Mr Hulton is Rotorua born and bred. After leaving Rotorua Boys' High School, he studied commerce at Canterbury University, graduating in 1974. Later that year, he headed off on a two-year OE that saw him working in the mines of Australia's Northern Territory ("a means to an end") before moving on to London.

Replying to a newspaper ad, he landed a house porter's job at Buckingham Palace moving furniture and occasionally rubbing shoulders with royalty.

He describes that year as a "fabulous experience" but in 1976, it was time to head home to Rotorua to put his degree to use.

He spent four years doing general accountancy at Markham & Partners before he was approached by Keith Hinton, who had a sole practice in Rotorua doing mainly Maori trust work. It was a specialised and unknown area of practice for accountants.

"I didn't know an awful lot about it [Maori trusts]. Keith's practice was growing and he wanted someone to join him, so I went and had a chat."

He agreed to give it a go and 18 months later, aged just 32, he became a partner of newly formed Hinton & Hulton.

It was a fast growing time for the firm, with a lot of Maori land coming back under iwi administration and trustees being appointed.

By the time Mr Hinton retired in 1995, a strong and loyal client base had been built up and Maori trusts accounted for the vast majority of the firm's clients.

Mr Hulton and Murray Patchell formed Hulton Patchell and have built it into one of Rotorua's leading accountancy firms.

In the 1990s, the firm worked with Ngati Whakaue and the Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust to develop the old Rotorua Railway Reserve land into the Central Mall, an ongoing project.

Another big part of the business is property management - managing up to 500 leases in Rotorua on behalf of Maori trusts.

Mr Hulton said he has enjoyed working with the trusts and seeing them embrace opportunities.

"As trusts have grown, they have gone through phases where they've got to get settled, they have growth, then suddenly it all takes off financially. Particularly those in forestry, they have surpluses, so are looking for opportunities to invest funds and it starts to snowball," he said.

"Trustees are now willing to look at things that are not traditionally what they would do with land. Something like goat farming, they will investigate those things, they're not closed off."

Hulton Patchell merges with global firm Deloitte on March 1, with the Hultons sticking around for a month to help with the changeover. Mr Hulton has no doubt the added resources and expertise Deloitte will bring will be beneficial to clients and he hopes it may also attract more young accountants to Rotorua which "has got to be good for everyone".

Looking back at his career, Mr Hulton credits his employees for making his job that much easier - working with trusts is very much a team effort, he believes.

"I have been fortunate in that the staff I have had working with me over those years have been loyal. It helps to have good people working with you."

Mr Hulton and his wife, who has been with the firm 21 years, have an overseas trip planned later in the year but otherwise plan to remain in their home town. Despite his pledge to take it easy, Mr Hulton said he'll be keeping a close eye on his old clients' fortunes.

"I have been with these clients for too long to just forget about them. I will watch how they grow and develop."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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