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Colin Temple Clere MNZM, 1927 - 2017

By Chris Ryan

Colin Temple Clere, who was a partner at Luke Cunningham and Clere for more than 40 years, was widely respected in the legal profession, known for his probity and genial nature. He died on 11 January 2017 aged 89.

Colin Clere was born in Wellington on 10 August 1927. He grew up in Lowry Bay, went to school at Wellesley College and Wanganui Collegiate, and studied law at Victoria. His grandfather was Frederick de Jersey Clere, the prominent architect who designed St Mary of the Angels in Wellington amongst many other buildings.

Admitted to the bar

Colin was admitted as a solicitor on 18 March 1953 and as a barrister the following April. He went to work in the firm of Luke Cunningham and Clere, joining his father Frederick Temple Clere, one of the founding partners of the firm in 1929 with Sir William Cunningham. Colin was to spend all his legal career there.

He and Miro Moss were married in 1953 and went on to have three daughters and a son. Miro died in 1973 and Colin remarried in 1976 to Hilary Thacker.

Mark Horton who was a partner in the firm with Colin during the 1970s and 1980s said that Colin was an assistant Crown prosecutor for a time early on in his career but “…he soon determined that court work was not to his taste.”

As a conveyancer and commercial lawyer he developed a strong trusts, wills and property practice. He was a generalist who looked after clients and their families throughout their lives and sometimes over succeeding generations. He enjoyed getting to know his clients and doing what he could for them. He became a director of a number of companies including Plumbers Limited. He was senior partner at Luke Cunningham and Clere from 1975 to 1995, and was a consultant for some years following that.

‘Warm and generous’

Grant Burston, Crown Solicitor and Luke Cunningham and Clere partner, knew Colin at the firm in the 1990s. He says Colin was “a lovely warm and generous man, one of that generation … looking after clients, their families and their estates. He had a lovely ‘bedside manner’. I was very fond of him.”

Colin worked with the Department of Conservation and other government departments in drawing up the lease of the Old Government Buildings for Victoria University Law Faculty from January 1996. He was also instrumental in forming the trust for the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, now Zealandia.

Duke of Edinburgh Award

Colin Clere had strong interests in the community. In particular, he was deeply involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award in New Zealand for many years and was its honorary solicitor. He was a voluntary council member for 35 years, the national chairman between 1990 and 1997, and a member of the Award’s international council. In the course of this work he met members of the Royal Family a number of times and in 2004 accompanied Prince Edward to award presentations in different parts of New Zealand. Colin became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in 1999 for his services to the Award trust.

Colin Clere was honorary solicitor for several other community and charitable organisations including Wellington City Mission, Laura Ferguson Trust (Wellington branch), Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand and Karori Reservoir Sanctuary Trust as advisory trustee.

He was the founding chairman of the Wellesley College board of trustees, honorary life member and former chairman of the Commonwealth Trust Wellington branch, and a life member of the Wellington Club.

Olive oil in Marlborough

When Colin retired in 1997 he and Hilary decided to do something completely different and bought 20 acres of bare land in Marlborough’s Waihopai Valley to grow olives. Step-son-in-law Bill Leckie says the land was dry and rocky and “… would grow only olives, grapes or gorse.” Colin at the age of 70, and Hilary, worked incredibly hard, planting 1600 olive trees over the next few years.

The couple found an existing mud and straw house when they arrived on their property, which they extended in the same style and material to make an attractive house that overlooked the olive grove. They developed a magnificent garden that was particularly Hilary’s project. There was a prolific potager with all manner of vegetables, ornamental trees, and over 30 grass varieties thought to be one of the best private collection of grasses in the country. Their property was featured in house and garden magazines and on television.

Once in production, Colin and Hilary produced highly sought after olive oil under the ‘Tussock’ brand. Their Tussock oil won a number of gold and silver awards in New Zealand competitions. Colin marketed Tussock oil at road-shows around the country, setting up stalls offering tastings in supermarkets; he once even went as far as the UK on a marketing expedition.

David Murphy worked with Colin in the mid 1990s said these olive oil marketing trips continued until relatively recently. “When I saw him selling olive oil in the supermarket he seemed ageless, always well-dressed and happy to chat, and he must have been 85 then.”

Grant Burston says Colin Clere obviously enjoyed his retirement and both he and Hilary thrived. “Colin looked stronger, healthier and happier when I saw him, and Hilary too, she was a force of nature with her gardens.”

Mark Horton says Colin set high standards for himself and others. “He was always courteous and a stickler for doing things properly, but not in an overbearing way.”

Bill Leckie says Colin was always impeccably dressed, always wore a hat in the city, and was rarely seen without a tie or cravat. He was reserved and polite – always “the perfect gentleman”.

This was first published in the March 2017 issue of Council Brief, the monthly newsletter of the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Law Society.

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Last updated on the 1st March 2017