The story of the Friends of The Elms

The Elms Trust

The idea of establishing a group to help preserve The Elms mission property goes back to the 1950s, soon after Duff Maxwell took over responsibility for the property after the death of his aunt, Alice. The full name was the lengthy "The Elms Historic Family Home Preservation Trust Inc.", generally shortened to "The Elms Trust".

When application was made to the Registrar of Incorporated Societies two problems arose. The first concern was that the society would be of direct benefit to the Maxwell family, and the second that the use of the word "Trust", with its specific legal meaning, was not allowed for an incorporated society. Submissions showing the benefit to the public of the preservation of the historic property won the right to register the group. Duff held fast over the name, and the impasse was finally resolved by the Governor General, Viscount Cobham, signing an Order-in-Council authorising the use of "Trust" in the name.

With the completion of the draft rules, an application for registration had to be made, signed by 15 people. Duff decided to, in his words, "add prestige" and submitted an application signed by 63 members.

In 1962 the inaugural meeting was held in the gardens on 29th November, thus commemorating the date of Alfred and Charlotte Brown's arrival in New Zealand in 1829. The Elms Trust consisted of ordinary members and a committee of six: two family appointees, two elected members, a Tauranga Borough Council Appointee and the Bishop of Aotearoa's appointee. Some 15 years later a member appointed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust was added.

The Maxwell family decided to gift the A.N.Brown collection to The Elms Trust in order to safeguard it and protect it from being dispersed. However, as Duff was only life tenant of the property, the gift could not be made as long as he lived, and instead the collection was leased for a nominal one shilling per year, with the legal provision that it would finally be purchased by the Trust from the family for one shilling. The need to provide a definitive list of the collection led to detailed cataloguing being undertaken by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in conjunction with the Alexander Turnbull library.

The Friends of The Elms

After the death of Duff Maxwell in 1997 The Elms Trust continued to manage the property on behalf of the Maxwell family for a short time.

The purchase of The Elms was arranged by a local businessman, and funded through generous donations from his Family Trust, the Port of Tauranga and the Lotteries Board. The Elms Foundation was established for the purpose of preserving and managing the historic mission station. At this time The Elms Trust was dissolved. Responsibility for managing the property passed to a Board of Trustees and a Board of Directors in January 1999.

The general membership of The Elms Trust still wished to be involved with providing support for the property. The Friends of The Elms was established with a committee of 6. the first committee meeting was held on 2 July 1999.

The Mission statement reads: "To create public awareness of The Elms and to support the aims and objectives of the Elms Foundation".

The Friends raise funds for special projects through subscriptions and concerts. The quarterly newsletter is circulated to all members and volunteers.

Other special projects funded by the Friends include:

  • The purchase of a delicate watercolour painting of the northern tip of the Te Papa peninsula by Rev, John Kinder, who married Rev brown's daughter, Celia.
  • Annual Twilight Concert held in the gardens at The Elms (Link to Events Page.
  • Funding of the restoration of paintings
  • Improvements to the interior of the Chapel, the Mission House kitchen, the administration office and the Fencible Cottage.
  • Thank you functions for the volunteer guides