New Zealand Law Society - Trevor Ross (Ross) Burton

Trevor Ross (Ross) Burton

Retired Rotorua solicitor Ross Burton died in Tauranga on 8 July 2021 at the age of 92.

For many years, Ross was a leader of the Rotorua legal profession, and senior partner of the well-known and respected firm of Davys Burton. He had widely acknowledged expertise in commercial and property law, as well as more arcane areas of practice such as local government and Māori land law.

He was the solicitor for the local authority for many years. In that capacity he prepared 2 bills for passage through Parliament, including one relating to the roading at Ohinemutu.

Ross's reputation extended beyond Rotorua. This resulted him being appointed to do the legal work on the Tauranga Harbour Bridge. He was fond of pointing out that the water immediately below the bridge is now legal road.

His commercial acumen saw him appointed as a director to the boards of a number of companies, including Rotorua Regional Airport Limited and Rotorua Newspapers Limited.

His legal expertise, diligent work habits and understated personal charm meant that he was kept very busy. At one stage he kept 3 full time secretaries busy. A far cry from the ratio of PAs to authors in the modern law firm.

Ross attended Auckland University. His law class intake was the last required to take Latin as part of a law degree. He topped that class, and took delight in rattling off legal concepts using his classical training.

His father Johnny died unexpectedly in 1955. The father and not the son was the family member who gave the name Burton to the law firm Davys Burton. Although he had not intended to practise law in Rotorua, a sense of family obligation saw him return to Rotorua to assist the firm. That association continued until he retired in 1996.

Shortly before he retired Ross was deservedly appointed as patron of the now defunct Rotorua Law Association.

He was also a former President of the then Waikato District Law Society, and continued to serve on its Ethics Committee post retirement.

Many members of the profession will be indebted to Ross for so generously sharing with them his valuable time, legal expertise, friendly advice and witty sense of humour.

The name Davys Burton disappeared from the Rotorua legal scene (with Ross’s informed consent!) in 2014 when the firm merged with Tompkins Wake. Despite that merger the surname of Burton will always hold an important part in the development of the legal profession in the Rotorua District.

Ross enjoyed 25 years of contented retirement, mostly in Rotorua but for the past 7 years in Tauranga. This enabled Ross and his wife Jackie to be closer to their children Ashley, Philippa and Adrian. They all survive him.

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