Ian Lawrence

- Member since 1984

A mere glance at Ian Lawrence’s CV reveals a diverse list of community involvement, from establishing The Festival of the Arts Trust, to being a Trustee of the Wellington Provincial Girl Guides, and Board Member of the Wellington Regional Orchestra.

“I’ve always tried to involve myself in the community,” he said. “Way back as a boy in Sydney I was very active in the Boy Scouts.”

Ian regarded the opportunity to join Rotary as another stepping stone to the sort of voluntary activities he enjoyed. “I’ve been a member of Rotary since 1984. The first couple of years as an honorary member, then as a member in my own right,” he said.

“There are several things that makes RCW special,” said Ian. “Firstly, it’s the oldest club in New Zealand and as such, it has a long tradition in the community.”

Ian believes that the club is much more egalitarian now than in earlier years. “In the formative and ongoing years it had representation from a number of leaders in the community. It still prides itself to some extent as having reasonably significant people amongst its membership,” he said.

According to Ian, the quality of the club’s membership has kept it in good stead when it came to fundraising events in the community. “There is a confidence that the Rotary Club will do a good job and has the right motivations behind it,” he said.

Ian grew up in Sydney and began studying at Sydney University before moving to New Zealand with his parents. He continued his studies at Victoria University, graduating with an LLM.

Now, New Zealand and Wellington is very much home. Ian has practiced law for over 50 years and faced a career choice that ultimately led to his work at the City Council.

“In the early years I started out doing a lot of court work as a lawyer, and I quite enjoyed the cut and thrust of jury trials and legal argument. When I got involved in local body politics back in 1971, I had to make a choice because it’s difficult being available for both court proceedings and a mountain of City Council meetings.”

Ian made the decision to focus on the local body activities, which he thoroughly enjoyed. “If I’ve got a regret, it was that I didn’t pursue a career in the courts -because I liked that as well,” he said.

Ian was elected Mayor of Wellington in 1983 and spent 15 years on the City Council including his term as Deputy Mayor. “I valued and enjoyed those roles, and the contribution I was able to make at the time,” he said.

Ian was able to balance his public and private life successfully, raising children whom possessed a healthy community awareness. “I tried as much as possible to keep my family life separate because we had five children. So I had to be careful to some extent that they didn’t get too much embroiled in it,” said Ian.

When Ian was elected Mayor, he was invited to become an honorary member of Rotary. Since then he hasn’t looked back. “One of the highlights of being a member was when I was invited to take on the club presidency some 10 or so years ago,” he said. Ian said he felt it was a new and different sort of challenge - one that he would value.

“It’s one thing to stand for election in various things and to win or to lose, but in the Rotary selection process for Presidency, you are in effect nominated by a group of your peers,” he said. “In doing so they show their confidence in you, and for me it was a big thing that they saw me as a person who could make a positive contribution to the club.”

As a club that encourages business relationships, Ian felt that his membership had led to members seeking his legal advice over the years. “To that extent it’s been good,” said Ian, “but what I’ve valued more is the friendships that I have developed.”

“On a personal level it’s been a very positive influence. You meet a very wide range of people of different backgrounds and interests,” he said.

Ian believes Rotary does well when it takes on significant functions, not just to fundraise, but to give publicity and support to a cause. “One of the things we did in my term as President was to run a sort of Oscars award where we had Weta Workshop and Sir Richard Taylor involved.”

“We had a décor that was ‘ocsaresque’ and ‘wetaworkshopery’, and we raised something like $45,000 for charity,” he said. “For me, it was the sort of function we were able to put together because of the talent in the club and because of the contacts the club has forged throughout the community,” said Ian.

Ian believes that the Wellington club has a reputation for innovation rather than being a cheque writer. “It’s much more fun and stimulating to do the functions and make them work than simply writing a cheque,” he said.

He envisions the club’s centennial celebrations in 2021, as an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the city in some way. “Nine years isn’t that far away in the scheme of things and I would like to see the club have a project and make a contribution to the city of some significance to mark that milestone,” he said.

“I think nationally, Rotary is one organization that has maintained its position over the years. Many community organizations and service clubs have waned - some had good years and bad years. Rotary in New Zealand has generally maintained its position and I hope that will continue,” he said.

Ian believes that education is vital for young people in this day and age. “Today, if you haven’t got a skill, training or learning in something, you tend to struggle. Although money isn’t everything, it certainly helps to have a basic education from which you can carve out a career that you’ll enjoy,” he said.

“Looking after one’s physical and mental wellbeing is also critical,” said Ian. You might be the brightest young man or woman on earth, but if you are not in good health, that mitigates against what you might be able to achieve and what enjoyment you get out of life,” said Ian.

Ian reveals that there are a few more things on his bucket list. “I have travelled a fair amount but I haven’t been everywhere by any means,” he said. Ian took a bus trip around Europe in his younger years, but would like to visit Spain, Portugal and Turkey - places he feels are a little more exotic. “I would like to do a bit more travelling, enjoy life and see friends. That I think, is a modest but pretty real ambition,” he said.


Researched and written by Lauretta Ah Sam, Communications Intern Dec 2011 - Feb 2012


Bob McCay

- Member since June 1981

With a polite nod, Bob McCay offers me a homemade ginger cookie and glances out at Oriental Bay. “I think Rotary stands out. It has a wonderful history working in the community and in recent years we’ve seen some good innovations,” he said.

“Being a Rotarian has certainly broadened my career life. For networking it was very important,” said Bob.

Bob worked for The Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) for 43 years, joining straight after leaving school. He later attended two business schools in Australia and he graduated from the Stanford Executive Programme at Stanford University in the United States, in conjunction with his work at the bank.

“Today it’s unusual to stay with a single employer, but in my time you went in there and stayed there,” he said.

Now this might be regarded as being very restraining, but BNZ was an extraordinarily good employer and I’ve had a very interesting career.”

Amongst the most memorable, was his work in Japan, where he travelled to Tokyo in 1969 to open operations for BNZ. During his three-year stint, Bob embraced the challenges of Japanese business culture. “It was once a closed society but the Japanese had begun to invite foreign banks to Japan. It marked the opening up of international banking and was an interesting and exciting time.”

This was BNZ’s first branch in a country where the national language wasn’t English. “It was a marvelous experience,” he smiled.

After Japan, Bob returned to New Zealand for two years before his next stint running BNZ’s operations in London. BNZ was one of the oldest foreign banks in London and the bank’s headquarters for a period early in its history.

“Leading the bank was a significant task. There have been times in my career that I thought I could have done things differently. But with the benefit of hindsight one could always think of things you could have done better.”

Bob regards his greatest achievement as having the opportunity to work his way to the top echelons of BNZ. “My last years at the bank were extraordinarily difficult – but I wouldn’t have changed the opportunity of wrestling with that,” he said.

He believes integrity and honesty to be the highest principles needed for the world of business. “The world has changed significantly over my 60 odd years. Things certainly don’t stand still, but when one sees what has happened in recent times regarding the demise of many financial institutions - that situation is something I would never want to be associated with.”

“I guess as a banker one had to have high principles and if you didn’t, you couldn’t have been successful. So I considered that I had a very clean sheet in terms of standards that I set for myself and tried to live by,” he said.

Bob was introduced to Rotary by his predecessor at BNZ and joined on June 22, 1981. “I became a Rotarian because I was following the path of my career – in those days it was the pattern. Rotary rules were that you could only have one person from a particular industry classification – so you could only have one banker in the club.”

“RCW stood out because it was not only the oldest and the first, but it attracted the top people in the community. That in itself attracted many of the other people there,” he said.

Bob regrets not having enough free time to involve himself in club activities during his working life. “At the time I joined RCW I was at a very busy work load so I was not that terribly active as a member. The club understood that for me to achieve a 60% attendance was impossible.”

Once in retirement, Bob was able to further involve himself in Rotary, accepting the role as the club’s 1996 President.

“Then a strange thing happened,” said Bob, describing an unusual situation where he was required to return to office after he had finished his term. “My successor took up office, but suddenly resigned after five months to take up employment overseas. So I had to come back to finish the rest of that term – and that was difficult,” he recalls.

Bob believes that the regular change in leadership breathed new life into the club. “With each new person that comes in as president, new ideas are brought to the club which keeps things fresh,” he said.

“Rotary has done a splendid job and I can’t think of anything they could do better,” he said.

Researched and written by Lauretta Ah Sam, Communications Intern Dec 2011 - Feb 2012

Marion Patchett

- Executive Secretary since 1989

Marion has worked as the Executive Secretary for RCW for over 22 years. She retired from the position on 19 March 2012, an event which was videod by the club for posterity.

Rotary Farewells Marion Patchett from Rotary Club of Wellington on Vimeo.

Her involvement with Rotary started when her husband, Glynn, joined the Tawa club in 1972.

RCW has had a secretary since 1924 and only four have held the position since then. It’s a big, diverse job with lots of responsibility and it certainly keeps Marion’s plate full but nevertheless “it keeps me sane!” she laughs “and I do really enjoy it.”

But Marion was well familiar with doing the all-important behind the scenes and admin work “when my husband became the president of the Rotary club of Tawa, who do you think all the paper work fell to?” she jokes “I did a lot of the donkey work but I was happy to do it.”

Marion not only keeps the books for RCW but she is also heavily involved with the student exchange programme. “I’ve been on the district committee of the Australia – New Zealand student exchange since 2000,” she says “I can’t get off it!”

Throughout the years Marion has had many exchange students stay at her house and she loves to see how the kids learn to stand on their own two feet having done their own thing for a few months, “it’s really wonderful.”

When asked what she thought attracted her husband to Rotary Marion believes it was his love for doing things for other people. She and Glynn seem to embody the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self” whether it was agreeing to be the Brownie leader for her daughters group so they could have a club or taking in exchange students, the Patchett’s were all about helping others.

“But you don’t do it for yourself,” says Marion “you do it for them.”

The annual jumbo tennis is another great RCW activity that Marion looks forward to “I took one look at the giant racquet and thought I’ll never be able to lift that! But it was lots of fun, but I did hurt my back a little!”

Marion’s favourite thing about being a part of Rotary is the fellowship. “Rotary is such a neat club,” she says “you make so many friends, even when people leave.” A moment that really signified the love and support of Rotary was when Marion’s husband died a few years ago. RCW rallied around her and helped her out. “We had over 400 people at the funeral,” she remembers.

“Rotary is like an extended family, there’s a lot of love and I don’t think you necessarily get the same kind of love and support in other clubs.”

After seeing this aspect of Rotary both of Marion’s sons have expressed their interest in joining Rotary somewhere down the track.

Marion has had the privilege of attending two Rotary International conventions – one in Singapore and one in Brisbane.

She’s made many friends through her travels and the RI conventions give her the opportunity to catch up with them and she plans on attending next year’s convention is Turkey to see many of them again.

The familiarity of Rotary members from all over the world coming together for a common purpose is something Marion finds really special about the conventions

“People are the same the world over,” she says “its mind boggling!”

Marion believes that the age level of the club has to be spread with young and old and it’s the changing age demographic that is brings up new perspectives, stirs up important questions about how the club functions and will ultimately keep things going.

“It really is such a great club,” says Marion “and I hope it stays around for a long, long time.”

Rotary has clearly been a very big part of her Marion’s life and it’s the unconditional love and support through good times and bad that keeps her coming back and striving to always give service above self.

Written by Vanessa Higham - Communications Intern 2011

Kerry Prendergast

As I asked what the highlight has been during her 20 years with Rotary, no time was spared to think hard about the question. It was obvious for her; “getting a Paul Harris fellow… but mostly it’s about interacting with a variety of people that make up Rotary.”

Kerry has been a part of Rotary since 1992 when she joined the Tawa Club.

At the time she was a Tawa Borough councillor, and being a part of Rotary gave her the opportunity to “interact …and network with a different group of people to help me in my role”.

In 2000 she then moved to the Wellington City Council, which also brought her membership into the RCW.

After being approached by the RCW she thought “it would be appropriate now … [to] be a member of a club which had much more focus in terms of business people for me to be able to network with”.

She found that it “became even more critical over the 6 years I was deputy mayor, and in the 9 years when I was mayor…. to be able to make the time to meet and listen to, and on occasions inform, Wellington Rotarians of what was happening in the local government space in Wellington.”

Due to her mayoral commitments she regrets not having the time to be involved in the clubs sub-committees, but during that time she “hosted functions on behalf of Rotary in the chamber… [and] also hosted visiting Rotarians in [her] office or in council chamber.”

One project she was able to get involved with while in office was chairing for 2-3 years as a fundraising project manager. The project was a “working party for a combined Rotary project which was to put a viewing platform into the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary”.

“Since finishing up as mayor I have been able to attend much more regularly and I am also now involved with the fundraising committee and able to have more input to that using my networking and contact ability.”

She thought of herself as “lucky”, being in her local government role and involved with Rotary as well. Having the ability to “maximise networking opportunities to the benefit of both the city and Rotary” was one of the most important and rewarding outcomes of her role.

A growing concern of hers is the future membership numbers for Wellington. “I think the difficulties around our Rotary Club is how old it is and the impression, or the perception that it may be elitist.”

The Wellington Club has “significant Wellingtonians involved with it” which could perhaps deter potential business people from getting involved.

She has noticed over the years that the “average age [of the members] tends to be getting older”.

“I think those of us who are younger, although getting older, need to make sure that we continue to tap people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s” and ask them to get involved. She feels that by actively engaging and involving people from 30 years of age it will continue to keep the club “rejuvenated and fresh”.