Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Judge Ian Borrin bequeaths $30m trust

Ian Borrin has made an everlasting contribution to New Zealand's legal system and law-making. Photo / iStock
Ian Borrin has made an everlasting contribution to New Zealand's legal system and law-making. Photo / iStock

A $30 million charitable trust to promote the development of legal education and research has been established by a retired district court judge who died last month.

The trust was announced today following the death of retired Judge Ian Borrin, 81, who bequeathed the trust to promote legal scholarship in all areas of the law, and the development of legal research, scholarship, writing and education.

Retired Judge Borrin died on March 23, and a memorial service was held at The Pines in Wellington today, where the establishment of the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation was announced. It is expected to be worth about $30 million, and is believed to be one of the largest single bequests ever made in New Zealand.

It will be administered by the Nikau Foundation, a charitable trust which manages gifts and legacies to primarily benefit the Wellington region. However, the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation will be aimed at benefiting all New Zealanders, and is "by far" the largest national trust on the Nikau Foundation's books.

It will have an advisory independent grants and scholarship committee established by retired Judge Borrin, made up of the Chief Justice of New Zealand Dame Sian Elias, the president of the Law Society Chris Moore; the dean of the law school at Victoria University Professor Mark Hickford; retired Chief Judge Thomas Goddard and his alternate, David Goddard, QC, as well as a representative of the Nikau Foundation.

"This is a marvellous legacy left by a man who has dedicated his life to law," Chris Milne, chairman of the Nikau Foundation said.

"Ian Borrin was a humble and gentle man of integrity, who sought no recognition for his generosity. He worked hard in his final months to ensure there was clarity in the foundation's purpose, and that it would be a lasting tribute to the memory of his parents.

"The establishment of the foundation is extraordinarily generous not only in its scale, but also in the impact such a legacy will have in perpetuity for the good of New Zealand. Ian Borrin has made an everlasting contribution to our legal system and law-making."

The Chief Justice of New Zealand, Dame Sian Elias said retired Judge Borrin was an "outstanding and highly respected Wellington practitioner and a very fine judge of the district court".

"Since his retirement he had remained fully engaged in the profession," she said.

"Ian supported scholarship and legal publications, perhaps a neglected object of philanthropy in New Zealand, but he knew that the rule of law underpins any community and he believed very strongly in its importance for New Zealand. It is entirely consistent with the way in which this modest, kind and scholarly man lived his life that this parting gift is one that looks to the future with optimism. We will all greatly miss this good man."

Members of the legal community at all levels will be supported by grants and scholarships to undertake legal writing, research and education through his gift, she said.

"It is a magnificent legacy which will be of lasting benefit."

Mr Moore said he had "no doubt that our legal and justice system will be measurably enhanced by this legacy".

Professor Hickford said: "This very generous bequest will make a significant difference to those who study and research law throughout New Zealand."

Retired Judge Borrin was raised in Wellington, attended Wellington College and studied law at Victoria University. He was appointed to the District Court in 1983 and served as head of the Police Complaints Authority, the police watchdog organisation, retiring in 2007 at 72.

A keen traveller and skier, he had a rare combination of experience that qualified him for membership of the Federation of International Skiers, an international arbitration court that heard cases relating to ski racing at its highest level. For membership a person needed to have served in the judiciary of their homeland and served on the country's highest ski authority - retired Judge Borrin had served as President of the New Zealand Ski Association.

He is survived by his partner, Jenny George

The members of the grants and scholarship committee have yet to meet to discuss finer details, the Nikau Foundation said, and it would likely be at least 12 months before the first grants and scholarships were awarded.

- NZ Herald

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