Member since December 1970
Seated in the lounge of the Whitby Room, Bob Stannard displayed extraordinary powers of recall that would put a much younger person (namely myself) to shame.
“I became a Rotarian 41 years and three or four days ago,” he says with barely a hestitation. “December 1970.”
“One of the great things about Rotary is that it keeps you in touch with the people that you’ve gotten to know over the years. In retirement, you run into them once in a blue moon, but with Rotary you are maintaining your contacts on a regular basis,” he said.
Bob was nominated by his good friend, Bruce Robertson. “I knew my friend’s enthusiasm about the club and was pleased that he took the initiative,” said Bob.
Bob grew up in Levin and came to Wellington when he left school. In early 1944 he worked and studied part-time at Victoria University, like many law and accountancy students of the time.
He confesses to have been too young for the war, registering when he turned 18. “I wanted to travel so I thought that I could travel the world during the war.”
Bob discovered that none of the services would take him overseas so he decided not to enlist. Instead, opportunities for travel to distant and exotic lands would come in his working years.
“In 1949 I wanted to go to England. Accountants were very poorly paid in those days. I had 100 pounds to my name and that was the price of a boat fare from New Zealand to the United Kingdom,” he said.
With the help of a close friend who worked for one of the shipping companies, Bob was signed on as Engineer's Steward and worked his passage across. “I got to London with my 100 pounds intact and was paid off 23 pounds six and four pence or something like that,” he chuckled.
“It’s virtually impossible to do that these days – but way back in 1949 that was really nothing out of the ordinary.”
The boat docked and Bob went to London with a letter of introduction which lead to his employment in London-based international accounting firm, Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co.
Two years later he was sent to the Singapore office for a twelve month stint, after which he returned to the UK for a few months. “I was due to pick up an offer of employment and the potential offer of a partnership in a Wellington firm,” said Bob.
But his wanderlust proved too strong and Bob postponed his appointment to travel to the Far East again, spending time in Singapore and Indonesia before returning to New Zealand to work for Bowden, Bass and Cox in 1953.
The following year, Bob was made a partner of Bowden, Bass and Cox (now KPMG Peat Marwick).
In 1987 he “picked up” a number of directorates and enjoyed working with several companies. “I finished my last board appointment a few years ago,” he said.
Bob cites his most important achievement as his role in solving the financial difficulties faced by the Public Service Investment Society in 1979.
“They got into financial difficulties and in order to prevent a disaster, the government passed special legislation without warning one night and I was named as the Statutory Manager of the Public Service Investment Society.”
“I was there until 1987 and it survived and has flourished in the intervening years,” said Bob. “It was probably my greatest achievement, as their liability was fairly substantial – they were hopelessly insolvent,” he explained.
Years of crunching numbers and seeing first hand, the financial woes of others, has meant Bob has some sound practical advice. “If I were to give a young person one piece of advice it would be to avoid debt,” he said.
“A wonderful Professor of economics, Barney Murphy of Victoria University, used to tell us – slightly paraphrased - ‘the Bible tells us that the meek shall inherit the earth. That’s all very well but when they do they’ll find the strong still hold the first mortgage’,” said Bob with a laugh.
“Be careful – avoid debt and you’ll avoid trouble,” he added.
In his younger days, Bob tramped in the Tararua Ranges near his hometown Levin. “I went down to Fiordland with five others in 1946. It was my introduction to Fiordland and I fell in love with the place,” he said.
Bob was a Director of Fiordland Travel Limited (now named Real Journeys), based in Te Anau, which ran numerous tourist boats and the 100 year old steamboat on Lake Wakatipu. “It was 25 years that I thoroughly enjoyed,” he said.
Bob was awarded a Rotary Paul Harris Fellowship in 1997 and has been a guest at Auckland, Taupo, Levin, Te Anau, London, Invercargill and Sydney Rotary clubs.
He commented on the change in membership composition over the years. “Head offices have moved to Auckland and insurance companies have amalgamated so today there is not the number of chief executive officers that we had in earlier years.”
“The club’s diversity has increased. Previously, we didn’t have members from the public service or representatives from the armed forces. The admission of women to the club has also enabled Rotary to survive.”
Bob believes that RCW is doing a marvelous job. “The people who go in as president do a wonderful job and I would hate to suggest anything that would add to their burden,” he said.
Responding to a question about his secret ambition, Bob said that “Although my tramping days are well and truly over, if I could, I’d hire a helicopter and fly around the mountains down there. Helicopter flying in Fiordland is the ultimate in flying,” he said.
Researched and written by Lauretta Ah Sam, Communications Intern Dec 2011 - Feb 2012