New Zealand Law Society - Wybrants "Tim" Olphert, 1940 - 2016

Wybrants "Tim" Olphert, 1940 - 2016

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Wybrants "Tim" Olphert died on 12 April 2016 aged 75. He practised as a lawyer for almost half a century and was widely respected for that.

Alongside his professional career Tim Olphert made major contributions in the community and to a number of charitable organisations; arguably he may well have seen the latter as his lasting legacy.

Tim was born in Wellington on 3 July 1940, the son of barrister and solicitor Wybrants Olphert, known as Bardie. Tim's grandfather, also Wybrants, joined the New Zealand Shipping Company in England as a young boy and sailed for many years between the UK and New Zealand where he met his future wife, Evelyn Tennant. He service in the Royal Navy in World War I and had an illustrious career. After the war the family returned to New Zealand where Captain Wybrants Olphert because the first commanding officer of the newly formed Wellington Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. The division was renamed HMNZS Olphert in his honour in 1951.

Tim's son Timothy Wybrants Olphert continues the family name.

Tim grew up in Kelburn and went to the local school and then spent 10 years at Scots College. Long-time friend John Hunn ONZM, who delivered the eulogy at Tim's funeral, said the only story he had heard Tim tell about his time at Scots was how much he enjoyed the annual Scots College/Queen Margaret College combined productions, usually a musical and more often than not a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

"My recollection of his enthusiasm was his performance with Sir David Carruthers as two of the bridesmaids in Ruddigore," he said.

Tim's wife of 50 years, Lorraine, says it was always expected that Tim would pursue a legal career, and he duly studied law at Victoria University. After several years of study, along with hard work in the university's annual 'Extrav' production, he was admitted as a solicitor in February 1965, and as a  barrister the following February.

Tim worked as a law clerk in several Wellington firms before joining his father's firm, Olphert and Bornholdt, in 1967. He left to establish the firm that would become Olphert and Collins in April 1981. This firm merged with Rainey Collins Armour and Boock in June 1986 to become Rainey Collins and Olphert. From early in the 1990s Tim Olphert became a barrister sole. In 2000 he became the full-time chair of a statutory authority reviewing immigration and residency appeals and issues. From 2006 until his retirement in 2011 he was a review officer with the Police Complaints Authority, now the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Tim's legal work encompassed a range of criminal law and civil litigation cases. He was particularly well known for a range of appointments as counsel for the child in the Family Court.

John Hunn: "He took his position as advocate for the child very seriously. He was able to connect with young people, to respect their needs and wishes, and to be their advocate in every sense of the word.

"His natural empathy and consideration for people was a major asset in helping resolve many difficult situations."

This empathy and consideration led Tim into his extensive community involvements.

Early on he was a scoutmaster, a vestry member of St Michael's Church in Kelburn, president of the Scots College Old Boys Association and a member of the school's board of governors, and a member of the Khandallah School parent teachers' association.

In 1976 Tim established the New Zealand branch of the Oticon Foundation, the philanthropic dimension of the multinational Oticon Corporation, the world's second largest hearing aid manufacturer based in Denmark. He chaired the Foundation for 40 years. During this time the New Zealand foundation donated more than $4 million to improving the lives of the hearing impaired in this country. His contribution to the foundation was recognised by the directors of Oticon in 2015.

Throughout the 1990s Tim was a member and then chairman of the management committee of the Wellington Samaritans, which he had helped his uncle Dean Walter Hurst establish some 30 years earlier. At the same time, and until 2011, Tim was Wellington chairman of the Order of St John and on several of the Order's national committees.

The following words from St John were read at the funeral:

"The Order of St John is part of the New Zealand royal honours system and confers membership on those who strive to fulfil its objects and purposes of caring for others.

"With the sanction of Her Majesty the Queen, Tim was admitted to the Order of St John as an Officer in 1997, and promoted to Commander of the Order in 2013. The Order is privileged to have been invited to attend this service today for Tim and for members to wear their church robes. The Order's church robes date from the eleventh century and wearing them is a privilege reserved for senior order members including Tim Olphert."

John Hunn said he worked closely with Tim in a number of volunteer community organisations and saw his admirable qualities at close hand "…firstly at Wellington Samaritans and recently as a trustee of our education trust [the John and Margaret Hunn Education Trust] to assist the career development of outstanding young performing artists. We have really valued his contribution as a trustee which encapsulated many of the qualities I have already mentioned – taking the time to get to know the young people involved, following their progress with a real interest and encouragement, and bringing his wise counsel to the decision making."

The love of music was important part of the lives of both Tim and his wife Lorraine. Lorraine says they both grew up with an appreciation of opera and classical music.

"We have been involved with Wellington City Opera and now New Zealand opera as benefactors and I was 20 years on the Friends of the Opera committee which involved Tim in major support roles of helping with our functions. We both became very interested in the careers of young opera singers and Tim was the third trustee of John and Margaret Hunn's trust which makes grants to promising young singers. With our overseas travels in the last 15 years we have enjoyed performances in some of the great opera houses of the world."

Tim was a very sociable man and enjoyed meeting friends and colleagues and sharing time with them.

In 1995 he was elected to the committee of the Wellington Club. Subsequently he became vice president and then president where, John Hunn says, "… he brilliantly reflected his long practised reputation as a splendid 'mine host' … He would have been chuffed to know that the club has flown its flag at half-mast during the past five days."

Tim's hard work and sincerity in working in community organisations reflected his nature, Lorraine says. "His kindness, thoughtfulness, concern for people in difficulties and his abhorrence of violence led to his involvement in the community."

John Hunn: "Tim was appreciated by all his friends for his sociability, his outgoing 'let's do it' attitude, and his boyish enthusiasms for the many things he was involved in."

This was published in the July 2016 issue of Council Brief, the monthly newsletter of the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Law Society.

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