Martinborough has changed beyond recognition since veterinarian Liz Hancock arrived in the late 1970s, but her enjoyment of being “an everything vet” has not. Susan McLeary reports as Liz looks back after retiring.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree from Massey, Liz worked for a food company in Christchurch for two years before deciding she wanted a vets’ job with a diverse range of animals, in a rural environment.

“I didn’t want to be stuck inside, wanted a good mixture of work, lots of different animals in all sizes, domestic as well as farm animals. I wanted to be ‘an everything vet’, and love it that no two days are the same.

“What was then Martinborough Vet Services offered all these things plus a truly rural environment, and I moved to Martinborough in 1978.

“It was a very quiet town then, a bit sad in tough times for agriculture. There was a fish and chip shop and the pre-renovation Martinborough Hotel offered meals in the Ladies Lounge on Saturday nights only if a cook was available. 

“There were berry gardens where Palliser is now, and huge holding paddocks and saleyards in the New York Street block by the rugby club,” Liz recalled. 

“The first grapes were planted in 1979. I remember Clive Paton planting half his land in grapes to become Ata Rangi, and market gardening the other half for cash flow”. 

Who knows whether Liz would have stayed in Martinborough had a young John Hancock not come to ask a question about his pet pig due to have piglets. They married in 1979 and their three children were brought up on their hill country farm. 

Liz comes from a medical family and at school did well with maths and sciences. The scientific genes have been passed to her children: Ben is soon to be capped with a PhD in science. Their daughter Penny is a bacteriologist with the ESR, and their eldest son Randall is an engineer for Whakatiki Engineering in Upper Hutt.

“We ran a Hereford stud and a Suffolk stud breeding sires for sale. We’ve since leased out the hill country and have kept the Suffolks. Since the kids have left home we have got back into breeding horses.

 “We’ve been lucky so far – our first broodmare Conchelle had three out the four of her foals she had with us win races – and amazingly we found her through the owner of a yearling horse I stitched up. Seems appropriate, doesn’t it?” she smiled.  

Joining South Wairarapa Vet Services in the late 1990’s, Liz got exactly the “everything” vet role she was after, dealing with all creatures great and small. 

“I love the mental gear change in literally moments as different animals come through the clinic door. To me that’s normal and appealing. 

“The practice has grown and become more specialised and high-tech: we now have in-house digital X-Rays and automated lab testing, and do more specialised surgery”. 

Post-retirement looks to be as busy as her working life. Liz has just organised two Vet School class reunions in Martinborough, is involved with Rural Women New Zealand at a regional level, breeds whippets and “cats of character”, and plans out of town visits to watch the horses race. 

She concludes “I enjoyed life as a vet. I met interesting people, often over several generations, and was never bored. I remember one stunning day while pregnancy testing cows down on the coast, and suddenly a pod of dolphins were frolicking in the bay.  It was magnificent, and I felt very lucky”. 

PIC -   Ginny the whippet was bred by Liz, and is delighted she’s at home more often since retirement.