In the 1960’s, when Rotary was rapidly expanding, Ron Harrison, the Wellington Manager of New Zealand Breweries, with headquarters in Molesworth Street, called a meeting to establish a new Rotary club. With the sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Wellington, the Rotary Club of Wellington North came into being on 18 November 1965 with 26 Charter Members, whose names are listed on page 7. The initial Club gathering took place at midday in the Battle Bar of the Waterloo Hotel to enjoy conviviality and then adjourned to the Dining Room for the first meeting. Ron Harrison, as the first president, occupied that role for the next 18 months.
During the Presidency of foundation member, Paddy Mills, the club venue was changed in 1970 to the Sharella Motor Inn, opposite the gates to the Botanical Gardens in Tinakori Road. It was only a short move as it was a ‘bit out of the way’ for many members.
Bill Somerville, an outgoing personality and outspoken in many ways, thought the club needed to be “up market” and, in his time as President, the venue was changed in 1972 to the James Cook Hotel. Some thought it was setting out to compete with more central Rotary clubs and not meeting within its then defined territory.
In late 1973 the opportunity came to lease space in Tinakori Road in the Masonic Lodge building. The site location was within the Rotary defined district of Wellington North, within easy walking access from the Molesworth Street area with its many diplomatic and government offices and had considerable vehicle parking facilities on site. Paddy Delaney, the 1973 President, inaugurated the move. The Wellington Bridge Club later purchased the building and the Rotary club has met there ever since.
When the club was established the membership was comprised of men who were mostly in business, government or professions. In line with the strictly applied Rotary International classification rules of the time there was only one member per occupation type, although this could be stretched by contrived subdivision of occupations. There was the story that a Bishop could be described as “Religion Wholesale” and a Vicar as “Religion Retail.”
            Another rule, now discarded, was that a member had to reside or work in the designated geographical area of the club, which was defined street by street. In general Wellington North’s membership area comprised Thorndon, Kaiwharawhara, Wadestown, Ngaio and Khandallah. 
            A requirement, which was strictly observed until about the early nineties, was that of attendance and make-ups. If a member could not attend a meeting he was expected to make up at another club with the objective of achieving 100% attendance. However, at least 60% attendance at one’s own club was also required. If the member did not measure up to Rotary these requirements he could be ‘asked’ to leave the organisation, health reasons being the only exception. Leave of absence could be granted in exceptional circumstances. There is no record of the club ever invoking the expulsion clause, although some private discussions may have precipitated a resignation or two.
            Over time the demographic of the club changed. The average age of members increased, ‘retired’ became the predominant occupation and several members had moved out of the club zone but still valued their membership. Rotary International rules were relaxed, usually following informal trends by clubs. Thus, geographical boundaries and strict attendance rules were diminished. The latter did have a downside in that it virtually eliminated the practice of make-ups, which had seen a lot of interaction between clubs.
            Changes in Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation’s policies over the past 25 years have impacted on the club. The first was the long-overdue admission of women into Rotary. The first to be inducted into Wellington North was Margaret Emerre who subsequently became President and has since served the District in a number of capacities.
            In recent years, in recognising changes in society and declining membership, Rotary International relaxed many of its rules relating to meeting structure and attendance. In 2019 Wellington North elected to change its luncheon meetings from weekly to the first and third Thursdays of the month. In early 2020, when Covid-19 struck and the club had to suspend its face to face meetings, a new form of gathering emerged in the form of Zoom meetings. Club members soon adapted to this new arrangement, which may form part of the club’s activities in the future.
Many members of the club have served on District and International committees. Six have served as District Governors, including current members Ross George, Morris Robertson, Tony Fryer and John Mohi. Two have served in other districts, Ian Holyoake in District 9930 and Peter Kyle in District 7620 (Washington DC). Peter Kyle has gone on to become a Director of Rotary international for 2020/22.