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McKenzie Family

Sir John Robert McKenzie

One of seven children of Scottish immigrants, John was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1876.  His father was a customs officer.  After leaving school at 13 and working odd jobs for some years, he enlisted in the Victoria Bushmen’s Regiment when the Boer War broke out in 1899.  He served nearly two years in South Africa and was invalided home in 1901.

In 1905, he set up a “fancy goods” shop with his sister Ella in Collingwood Melbourne.  The business was so successful that a second store was opened within a year.  The Melbourne shops were sold to a competitor, and the pair established businesses in Tasmania and Sydney.  After a holiday to New Zealand in 1909, John transferred his business here the following year.  The first McKenzies store was opened in Dunedin and the business grew rapidly.

By 1980, when the business was taken over, there were 75 stores and 1800 staff; McKenzies was a household name throughout New Zealand.

John McKenzie believed that a firm should share its prosperity with those who had helped to make it prosperous.  In 1938 he established the first trust to bear his name: the J R McKenzie Youth Education Fund was established with a gift of ten thousand pounds, and in 1940 the J R McKenzie Trust was established with an initial capital base of 300,000 pounds, making it the largest philanthropic trust in the Southern Hemisphere at that time.

In 1949 John McKenzie was recognised for his contribution to public welfare when he was made a Knight of the Order of the British Empire.

Sir John and his wife May raised two sons, Don and Roy.  Sadly Don died in World War Two.

Sir John died in 1955.

Sir Roy McKenzie

Born in 1922, Roy attended Timaru Boys High School and Otago University, where he studied accountancy. During the Second World War he served in the RNZAF and the RAF.  From 1949 to 1970 he was the Executive Director for McKenzies (NZ) Ltd.

In 1948 Sir Roy married Shirley Howard.  Sir Roy and Lady McKenzie had three children – Peter, John and Robyn – and nine grandchildren.

Sir Roy’s contribution to philanthropy in New Zealand has been immense.  He was on the J R McKenzie Trust Board from 1947 – 1993, chairing it for 17 years.  He substantially increased the Trust’s assets.  He was significantly involved in the governance of the J R McKenzie Youth Education Fund.  He also set up other grant making bodies:

  • the McKenzie Education Foundation (1966 – 85)
  • the Roy McKenzie Foundation (1986 – 95) – this was ground-breaking in its flexibility and innovation, seeding the birth of important organisations like the Funding Information Service and Philanthropy New Zealand.
  • the Deaf Decade Trust (1992 – ), which now operates as the Deaf Development Fund.

He was renowned for his innovative approaches to supporting the community and his own “back pocket philanthropy”.

Sir Roy was prominent in developing and supporting many organisations including Outward Bound Trust, NZ Council for Educational Research, Birthright, Te Omanga Hospice, and others.

Sir Roy died in 2007.

Peter McKenzie

A son of Shirley and Roy, Peter established Nga Manu Trust, and Nga Manu Nature Reserve, a bush and wetland reserve and bird sanctuary in Waikanae.

Peter served on the J R McKenzie Trust Board for 13 years.  He was Chair of the Jayar Charitable Trust and Deputy Chair of Rangitira Limited, the sources of the Trust’s income.

Peter died in 2012.  Click here to read an obituary.

John McKenzie

A son of Shirley and Roy, John McKenzie was a Trustee of the J R McKenzie Trust for 28 years until 2010.  He served 5 years as Chair.

Robyn Gibson

Robyn is Shirley and Roy’s daughter.  She served a term as Trustee of the Roy McKenzie Foundation.

Ruth McKenzie

Ruth is Peter’s wife.  She served a term as Trustee of the Roy McKenzie Foundation.

Chris McKenzie

A son of Peter and Ruth, Chris is a Trustee of the J R McKenzie Trust.

David Vance

A nephew of Shirley, David is a Trustee of the J R McKenzie Trust.

Personal Trustees

The Personal Trustees oversee the family’s philanthropic interests in both the Trust and the investment company Rangatira Limited.  The current Personal Trustees are Chris McKenzie and Sarah McLennan.