YEAR: 2008


The death occurred last week of Robin Corcoran, a respected harness racing administrator for many years at the highest level.

He was appointed a Steward of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club in 1975, and joined the committee in 1977, where he remained during the amalgamation of the three clubs in 1998, until retiring in 2002. He was treasurer fron 1983 to 1994, a Director of Addington Raceway from 1984 to 1998, and Chairman fron 1995 to 1998.

He was heavily involved in the developments at Addington Raceway, including the Stewards' Stand and the negotiations with the Council over the Westpac Centre development. He initially chaired the Raceway's joint venture company NCC(NZ) Ltd, which managed the Westpac Centre, Convention Centre and Town Hall for the Council from 1996 to 2006.

He was on the Executive of Harness Racing New Zealand from 1987 to 1997, on which he served as Treasurer and Vice-Chairman.


Mike Crean writing in the Press 29 Nov 2008

Robin Corcoran's understanding of Maori land law was unequalled in the South Island. For more than 50 years, the Kaiapoi based solicitor handled complicated and sometimes acrimonious issues of land tenure for local Maori. He won huge regard among Maori, and was seen as an authority by the legal profession.

Corocoran's death three weeks ago, aged 79, prompted a flow of tributes from Ngai Tahu. Many referred to him as their poa (grandfather). The award of Member of the NZ Order of Merit, in 1996, recognised not only Corcoran's work in Maori land law, but also his services to the Catholic Church and harness racing. He continued to work as a legal consultant for years later, and his advice was still sought by other law firms until recent weeks.

After his education at Kaiapoi's convent school and St Bede's College in Christchurch, and completing law studies at the University of Canterbury, Corcoran qualified as a lawyer in 1952 and joined his father's firm in Kaiapoi. He took over the firm after his father's death. By then, he was married to Ursula Baker, was living in Christchurch and was raising a family of seven. However, he continued to work mainly from Kaiapoi, visiting the firm's Christchurch branch office only one day a week.

Fellow North Canterbury lawyer John Brandts-Giesen says Corcoran had "a real understanding of Maori land law" long before it became fashionable. "Robin served Ngai Tahu well," Brandts-Geisen says. Many prominent iwi members "beat their way to his door. He had a large following of loyal clients who valued his judgement and skill." Corcoran's standing was indicated with his appointment to the committee that drew up rules for the Maori Land Court.

Three of Corcoran's children became lawyers. One, Anthony, says his father's service to clients involved pastoral care as much as legal advice. He gave sound guidance on all sorts of matters. His practice was based on common sense, trust and integrity delivered with impeccable manners. "He held himself to the highest standards. He never did what was populist, but what was right," Anthony says.

Brandts-Gieson says the key to Corcoran's success was that "he knew enough law to be sound, but not too much to be arcane". His advise was "direct", drawing on a full and varied life. "He was a good ally, but an awkward and often implacable opponent." His full and varied life was reflected in his holding office on many committees and exectives.

From the day he left school, in 1946, he was active in the St Bede's Old Boy's Association. He served two terms as president and two as chairman. Elected chairman of the college's board of proprietors in the late 1970's, he steered the college through it's integration with the state-school system and was heavily involved in the development programmes. He gave similar service to the former Sacred Heart College. His voluntary work for these and other Catholic schools led to his work as a financial and legal adviser to the Christchurch Catholic Diocese.

A long-time interest in trotting landed Corcoran in the thick of the controversial amalgamation of small Canterbury Trotting Clubs. Beginning as a steward, committee member and treasurer of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club at Addington, he became chairman of the board of Addington Raceway and vice-chaiman of Harness Racing NZ. Raceway former chief executive Mike Godber says Corcoran promoted necessary changes in the industry, demanding increased efficiency and the amalgamation of small clubs.

As chairman of Addington Raceway, Corcoran negotiated with the Christchurch City Council for the building of the Westpac Centre on raceway land. He was appointed by the Thai venue management company NCC as chairman of its joint-venture company managing the Westpac Centre and the Christchurch Town Hall and Convention Centre. Godber say's Corcoran's "ability to forge relationships and his gift for relating to people" gave him such standing that NCC felt "he had to be chairman".

Corcoran was a life member of the Canterbury Club, Kaiapoi Golf Club, Kaiapoi Workingmen's Club, St Bede's Old Boy's Association and New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club. Son Anthony and daughter Clare say he was a busy man, but always put family and faith first. Home was a happy place, with many visitors and frequent parties. Ursula Corcoran says her husband never sought leadership roles, but many people asked him to help and he never said no.

Anthony Robin Thomas Corcoran, born Christchurch, August 17, 1929; died Christchurch, November 6, 2008. Survived by wife Ursula, daughters Mary Alice, Brigid, Clare and Judith, sons Michael, Matthew and Anthony, and 12 grandchildren.

Credit: HRWeekly 13Nov08


The first Treasurer of the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club was Mr L Wilson who served from 1899 to 1906. Prior to this he had been Treasurer of the Lancaster Park Amateur Trotting Club from 1894 until 1899 and continued as Treasurer as the new Club. In July 1903 the Chairman ruled that under the rules of the Club its Treasurer did not have a seat on the Committee so in August of that year Mr Wilson declined to sign the Club’s cheques. He was asked to explain his reasons for his refusal and advised that in the meantime other arrangements for signing had been made. It was agreed that Mr Wilson should counter-sign the cheques as Treasurer and at the AGM in July 1904 steps were taken to amend the Rules to include the Honorary Treasurer as a member of the Committee and then Mr Wilson was re-elected Treasurer at the Annual Meeting and attended the first Committee meeting following his election.

Mr Wilson was followed by Mr T Marr who served for only two years, dying while in office. The third Treasurer was Mr G B Ritchie who served until 1909 when he was elected Vice-President in September of that year resulting in a vacancy for the Treasurership which was filled by Mr J Harris until 1911.

Following the death of Mr Harris in office, Mr G Treleaven was appointed and served for eight years. He was followed in 1919 by Mr J S Williams who held office until 1921. Mr Williams had a long association with Trotting being an original Member of the Canterbury Trotting Club which was established in 1887. He was one of the few at the first meeting held to found the NZ Trotting Association in 1888 and was President of that body in 1891 when the Government recognized the Association by authorizing it to approve all programmes before Totalisator Licences were granted to Clubs.

Mr F E Graham was the next Treasurer and held office until August 1935 when he was appointed Vice-President on the death of Mr C M Ollivier.

Mr G W C Smithson was then appointed to fill the vacancy caused through Mr Graham’s elevation and he continued as Treasurer for ten years, retiring in 1945. As well as being Treasurer, Mr Smithson was the Club’s Solicitor for many years.

Following his term as President of the Club, Mr A L Matson was elected Honorary Treasurer, an office he held until 1952 when Mr C S Thomas, the Immediate Past President of the Club was elected. Mr Thomas held the office of Treasurer until 1970 when he resigned in favour of Mr D E Dalzell. Up until 1981, Mr Thomas was the longest serving Treasurer in the history of the Club having acted for 18 years.

Before being Treasurer, Mr D E Dalzell was associated with the “Met” for many years being an assistant to Mr S P Godfrey who was Gate Supervisor and Financial Advisor to the Club. Following the death of Mr S P Godfrey, Mr Dalzell and his partners continued as Gate Supervisors until their resignations in 1963. Mr Dalzell was elected a Member of the Club soon after and was subsequently appointed Honorary Treasurer in 1970 an office he held until his resignation in 1983. Mr A R Corcoran who was elected to the Committee in 1977 succeeded Mr Dalzell.

Credit: NZMTC: Historical Notes compiled by D C Parker

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