Member 1984 - 2013
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
Ian retired from the Rotary Club of Wellington in 2013