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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Public Trust Department

Public Trust Department.

This department was constituted by Statute in 1872, but since then its scope has been much enlarged, and by the Public Trust Office Consolidation Act, 1894, very much extended authority is given it. The department is designed to afford to persons, either in the Colony or residing abroad, a secure agent or attorney in any case where it is desirable to form a trust, and it also provides for relieving private trustees of property in the Colony of their responsibilities where they may be unwilling or unable to undertake or continue the administration of properties under their control. There are restrictions regarding the acceptance of all trusts, and to guard the department against loss, except so far as regards intestate estates, the acceptance is subject to the consent of the Board of the Public Trust Office. The Public Trustee, in his capacity as an executor, administrator, guardian, agent, or attorney, possesses all the rights and immunities as a private person acting in any of those capacities would have. In cases of persons dying intestate in the Colony, the Public Trustee, if he thinks fit, may apply for letters of administration. The good faith of the administration is guaranteed by Statute, and the Colony is pledged to maintain the integrity of funds placed in the Trust Office either for investment or without direction. The Act provides that the funds may be invested in Government Securities either of the United Kingdom or any colony; in debentures of local bodies; on real estate up to half its value; in fixed deposits on any bank carrying on business in the Colony, or in the Post Office Savings Bank. The charges made by the Public Trust Office are calculated to be no more than sufficient to meet the expense of managing the department without loss, and it is claimed that they compare favourably with the expense of administration by any other agency. The number of estates administered by the department increased from 1678 in 1890, to 2086 in 1895, and the value from £1,240,097 to £1,562,269. Interest is paid on moneys arising from any estate at the rate of 4 1/2 per cent. up to £3000, and above that sum, 4 per cent.; in lunatic and intestate estates, 8 1/2 per cent. There are district agents at Christchurch, Auckland, Dunedin, Greymouth and Napier. At New Plymouth a Reserves Agent assists the Public Trustee in the administration of the West Coast Settlement Reserves of nearly 200,000 acres on behalf of the native owners. Upwards of 100,000 acres are leased in from five to six hundred leases to settlers. The total number of permanent officers is thirty eight, and the annual cost about £8,500. The revenue of the Public Trust Office for the fifteen months ended on the 31st March, 1895, was £19,230, and the expenditure £17,290. To relieve the Public Trustee of a portion of his extensive duties, a Deputy Public Trustee has recently been appointed.

Mr. James Kemmis Warburton, Public Trustee and Superintendent of the Government Advances to Settlers Office, Wellington, was born at Nelson. In Wellington he received his primary education, but he was afterwards sent to England to have his education completed. He entered the public service of the Colony in the early part of 1862, receiving an appointment in the post-office. For nearly thirty years Mr. Warburton continued in this important branch of the public service, and for many years prior to his acceptance of his present onerous position, he filled the post of Mr. James Kemmis Warburton page 645 controller of the Money Order and Savings Bank Department. In June, 1891, he was appointed to the head of the Public Trust Office, a department of the public service, which entails a large amount of responsibility on its officers. So ably did Mr. Warburton perform the duties of this position, that on the creation of of the Government Advances to Settlers Office, in October, 1894, he was chosen by the Government as its superintendent, and it is probably no exaggeration to say that there is not another man in the Colony who could be found to merge himself in the duties of the office as does Mr. Warburton. He is at his post from early morning till late at night, there being no limit to his office hours, and works indefatigably in the interests of the public.

Mr. Frederick John Wilson, a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court in the Public Trust Office, who acts as office referee on legal points and other questions, was born in 1831 in the “World's Metropolis.” Educated at private schools in his native city, Mr. Wilson has since 1847 been employed in legal or notarial work. He came out to Melbourne in 1852, and remained for ten years. During this time he designed a most useful index, which he brought into operation in the Deeds Registry Office of the colony of Victoria. This index is a marvel of simplicity, and by its use a considerable annual saving in the cost of searches has been effected. During the course of his work Mr. Wilson made fully 170,000 entries. In 1862 he entered into an engagement to cross the Tasman Sea and take up work as managing clerk for Mr. James Smith, barrister and solicitor, who was removing from Melbourne to Dunedin, and to whom he had been clerk from 1854 to 1859. On arrival in New Zealand Mr. Smith offered him articles on full pay, which he served, and ten years later (1872) was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in Dunedin. Mr. Wilson next removed to the Dunstan goldfield, where he practised his profession for about fourteen years. In 1886 he sold out his business to Mr. Gilkison, having accepted an unsolicited offer of an appointment in the Public Trust Office. Mr. Wilson fills a most responsible position, having to decide many and divers questions for the guidance of the office. As a member of the Oddfellows' Society, M.U., he belongs to the Loyal Dunedin Lodge, in which he is a “Past Grand Master.”

Mr. Arthur Alexander Keith Duncan, Deputy Public Trustee, Chief Clerk of the Trust Office, is a New Zealander, having been born in Christchurch in 1860. Educated at the Christchurch Boys' High School and Grammar School, he entered the public service of the Colony in the Christchurch post-office, at the age of sixteen, after having a year's experience in the office of the Press newspaper of that city. Mr. Duncan was soon after-wards transferred to the accountant's department of the General Post-office, in which he remained for thirteen years, rising to the position of bookkeeper. In June, 1891, he was transferred to the Public Trust Office as chief clerk, which position he still retains. As a member of the Masonic fraternity, Mr. Duncan belongs to Lodge Waterloo, N.Z.C., in which he has held the office of Junior Deacon. For many years he has taken a lively interest in acquatics, holding the office of Secretary of the Wellington Regatia Club, on the committee of which he still acts. Mr. Duncan is joint owner of the well-known yacht “Maritana ” In cricket and football he has been prominent; as a bowler he was chosen to represent Wellington in three interprovincial cricket matches, and was very successful. He is also a member of the Wellington Football Club. In literary matters Mr. Duncan has also shown great interest, and sat as a member of the committee of the Wellington Athenæum for some years prior to its being merged in the Public Library.

Mr. Thomas Sherriff Ronaldson, Accountant of the Public Trust, and Advances to Settlers' Office, was born in Cork, Ireland, where he received his early education, completing his school course at Belfast. There also he got his first commercial experience, being several years in a wholesale linen warehouse in that city. The ship “Carisbrook Castle” brought Mr. Ronaldson to Auckland, New Zealand, in 1875. After gaining general mercantile experience in various parts of the Colony, he joined the Civil Service in January, 1883, as an extra clerk in the Property Tax Department. During the same year Mr. Ronaldson was transferred to the Public Trust Office as clerk, and he has steadily advanced in the service up to the present time. About the middle of 1893 he became acting accountant, and on the 1st of July, 1894, was raised to the position of accountant of the Public Trust Office. Upon the creation of the Advances to Settlers Department, the responsible office of accountant was entrusted to him. In years past, Mr. Ronaldson has taken an active interest in football and cricket. Between the years 1879 and 1883 he was prominent in football matches, and in cricket he represented Wellington as a bowler for many years. In 1886, Mr. Ronaldson married Miss Luckie, daughter of Mr. D. M. Luckie, assistant commissioner of the Government Life Insurance Department, and has three sons.