Descendants of a pioneering Wakatipu family could be
entitled to some plots of land listed as abandoned by the
Queenstown Lakes District Council. James Beech
Two Queenstown law firm employees have turned detective in
the search for descendants of a famous pioneering Cardrona
and Wakatipu family who could be in line to inherit land to
which they never knew they were entitled.
Macalister Todd Phillips (Mactodd) solicitor Tanya Surrey and
law clerk Rohan McKenzie have been searching for the
descendants of Rebecca and George Bond, and 19 other
registered owners of abandoned land, over the past six months
on behalf of the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
The council was not receiving any rates payments because of
the absence of owners. The council could only recover rates
for the previous six years.
Council spokeswoman Meaghan Miller said descendants might be
entitled to the land but it was not guaranteed.
"First the High Court must appoint the Public Trust as
managers, then the Public Trust will decide what to do. A
number of issues must be considered as well as the
entitlements of descendants."
Descendants for the unclaimed titles had been traced, except
for Rebecca Bond, Jennie Baird Galbraith, who is still the
registered proprietor of 607sq m in Kingston, and Wah Yeong,
Ah Kin or Ah Hin, Wong You, Sudy Key and Ah Lem, who were all
Chinese goldminers in the late 1800s.
The Mactodd team was actively seeking family members of those
early settlers and had also liaised with the Chinese embassy
and the New Zealand Chinese Association regarding the
goldminers. However, nothing more was known about Ms
Galbraith and the goldminers.
The titles for sections that Mactodd had not yet found
descendants for ranged in size from 405sq m to 2808sq m. All
were within the district, with nine in Cardrona.
The market values of the outstanding parcels ranged from
$50,000 to $385,000. If the market value was less than
$40,000, the Public Trust could choose to manage the land
without the need for a High Court application and the process
of finding descendants of title-holders.
Mactodd placed public notices in the Otago Daily Times and
national media, consulted cemetery records, museums, Public
Trust, Archives New Zealand, the New Zealand Society of
Genealogists and the Department of Internal Affairs' Births,
Deaths and Marriages section.
About 25 people from around the country, including four in
Otago-Southland, had contacted Mactodd and the firm was
working with the Public Trust to apply to the High Court at
Christchurch to manage the land.
"There are legislative requirements that the High Court and
Public Trust will consider before land is given to
descendants," Ms Surrey said.
Mrs Bond was the licensee of the Mountaineer Hotel in
Queenstown, in 1885, and is still the registered proprietor
of land with title issued in the late 1880s in Cardrona.
The Bonds had seven children - George Butler jun, Alice Maud,
Ada Rebecca, Isabella, Mary Ann, Minnie and Frederick Bond.
Alice was the only offspring known to have children, but one
died in childhood, one was thought to have emigrated to
Scotland, one became a nun and the other died in World War 1.
Mr McKenzie said the descendants the firm had found had been
"Some of the stories behind why some of the lands weren't
claimed are fascinating.
"There is a lot of excitement in the possibility there is
land in their ancestor's name they didn't know about, but
we've been making it clear there is a process involved and
the Public Trust may be appointed to manage it."
Ms Surrey said she and Mr McKenzie would love to hear from
anyone who had a genuine belief they were a relative of
Rebecca Bond, or any of the other landowners for whom the
firm was looking.
"We're optimistic there will be descendants out there who may
have a claim to the land.
"Any descendants will need to establish their ancestry and
identify a family link to Mrs Bond," Ms Surrey said.