Two decades of service celebrated

Posted on 13 July 2020

Ngāi Tahu Property investment general manager Ian Dewar is retiring after 22 years of leading the team looking after the company’s investment portfolio.

1 June 1998 was Ian’s first day at Ngāi Tahu Property, a company which was being established to help grow pūtea to support the aims and aspirations of the iwi once Te Kerēme – the Ngāi Tahu Waitangi Claim was settled.

Ian says working for Ngāi Tahu Property has been a “profoundly rewarding” experience which taught him a lot about Ngāi Tahu and he has striven to give back what he can in return.

“It is a great place to work because you see the tangible benefits of what you do. We can see and understand the benefits of the education and health programmes and the cultural and language revitalisation Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu provides, which make a real difference to whānau members.”

“It is a place where you want to keep coming to work every day to be a part of that and to work with people who have that passion and belief.”

GFC, earthquakes and Covid-19

The past 22 years have seen three major crises; the Global Financial Crisis, the Christchurch Earthquakes and the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

The GFC was a severe recession, and difficult to navigate, and was quickly followed by the devastating February 22, 2011 Christchurch earthquake which killed 185 people and destroyed much of central Ōtautahi. Dealing with damaged buildings and tenants who could not access their premises at that time remains the greatest challenge of his career, Ian says.

“Following the earthquakes, the investment team and I were working what felt like 24/7: It was full-on.”

“Covid-19 was a black swan event which saw businesses suddenly close. Unlike the earthquakes there was no visible damage but the impact on businesses, particularly small ones, was huge.”

Based on learnings from the earthquakes, the investment team quickly began contacting tenants to start working with them see where support was needed.

“We had to lead from the front to help them get through. The objective was to come through Covid with tenants, not vacancies.”

Investment changes and fundamentals

While property development is the better-known side of Ngāi Tahu Property’s business, Ian is passionate about the investment portfolio which provides a stable annual income for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

The tenancy portfolio includes a diverse mix of Crown and Local Body agencies plus commercial and retail across Te Waipounamu.

While he expects ongoing changes to commercial and retail needs will accelerate following the global pandemic, “there will always be a role for ‘bricks-and-mortar’ sites”.

Ian says the fundamentals of attracting good tenants, good leases and high-quality buildings don’t change. In retail centres, it is also having a good mix of complementary businesses to attract people and provide a ‘destination experience’.

Ngāi Tahu Property’s current retail portfolio, including Tower Junction and the Post Office Precinct in Tāhuna-Queenstown, is well placed for future changes, he says.

Staying in touch

Ian says he is retiring to spend quality time with whānau, especially his granddaughter and a second mokopuna due soon and to get to Takapō more often.

But he is pleased to retain ties with Ngāi Tahu Property through his involvement with various investment sites’ committees and boards.

“I really don’t know where those 22 years have gone. Ngāi Tahu Property has been a great place to work and it has been a privilege to work for the iwi.”

Ngāi Tahu Property chair Susan Huria praises Ian’s contribution from establishing the investment team and successfully managing these assets on behalf of the wider iwi, growing to a value of more than $500 million today.

“He came to us as a young man and leaves a kaumatua,” Susan says.

“His legacy to Ngāi Tahu is profound and we will never be able to thank him enough. His leadership of the team around him contributed to his recently being recognised as the 2019 Property Manager of the Year. He has managed two decades of successes and challenges, the latest of which was the last three months.

“Ian is known as having a personal style that is easy to work with, a strong set of values and unwavering integrity.

“Thankfully, he will still be involved in governance roles on our joint ventures so we will be seeing him around.”

Ngāi Tahu chief executive David Kennedy says Ian’s time leading the group’s property investment strategy, and the investment team has resulted in very high-quality investment portfolio worth about $500 million.

“Much of that is as a result of Ian’s mahi,” he says.

“His many attributes include his considered and thoughtful approach to property matters, always thinking of both the short and the long-term benefits of any action or decision. Ian has been a valued part of the Senior Management Team, and his sage and common-sense advice has been well respected by the kaimahi in the business and the board of directors.”

“When charting a course of action or facing a decision regarding the portfolio, Ian’s first and last question or thought has always been, ‘what will this mean for the shareholder?’.”

David says it is fortunate that Ian’s skills and experience will not be lost, as he has agreeed to stay on in various board and joint venture company positions for Ngāi Tahu Property.

“We all wish Ian the very best for his retirement, and thank him for the significant contribution he has made to the company.”