INVERCARGILL businessman and benefactor Sir Robert Anderson’s significant contribution to Southland has been recognised with his induction into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame.
The Young Enterprise Trust, which owns the Hall of Fame, inducted the 2020 laureates at a function in Auckland last week.
A presentation was made by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy to Sir Robert’s great-grandson, Robert Anderson, of Riverton, who accepted the citation and lapel pin on behalf of the family. Sir Robert died in 1942.
Sir Eion Edgar, chairman of the 2020 selection panel, said it was “highly impressed” with Sir Robert’s services to commercial enterprise and his “outstanding” contribution to the Invercargill community through Anderson Park.
Born in Queenstown in 1866, he joined the Southland Building Society in Invercargill as one of its first office boys, aged 12.
His role was to fill inkwells and clean the office floors but he was destined for bigger things, subsequently joining the mercantile firm Murray Dalgleish and Co.
In 1888 he took up employment with J.G.Ward Farmers’ Association then joined forces with Joseph Ward who was prime minister from 1906-1912 and again from 1928-30. In 1898 they established the successful Invercargill mercantile firm J.G.Ward and Co.
Sir Robert was initially J.G.Ward’s accountant before becoming managing director. His business acumen and integrity led to his appointment to several boards around New Zealand. He had a special connection with shipping, for many years serving as a board member of the New Zealand Shipping Company, being appointed chairman in 1941.
In 1930, Sir Robert was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George and he was knighted for his commitment to commerce and public service in 1934. In 1940, he became a Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
Known for his modest and humble approach, his only public comment on attaining a knighthood was my ups and downs but who hasn’t
He played an important role in the development of Southland and served on the Bluff Harbour Board, the Southland High School board of governors and the Southland Electric Power Board.
Sir Robert took an interest in farming both in Waikiwi and Dipton, and later gave some of his Dipton property to the Crown for settlement farms for discharged World War 2 soldiers. The Anderson Trust, set up to administer the allotment of the farms, also made grants to widows and orphans of servicemen.
In 1888, Sir Robert married Elizabeth Maria Walker and the couple had four children Irene and Kathleen.
Their Gala St home was donated to the Plunket Society in the 1920s and named the Anderson Plunket Home. They also made a significant contribution to the founding of the Southland Museum.
In 1910 the Andersons purchased the neglected Victoria Park on the outskirts of Invercargill. The imposing Georgian-style Anderson House, designed by Christchurch architect Cecil Wood, was built in 1925.
Following the deaths of the couple, their family honoured their wishes by gifting Victoria Park to Invercargill city.
It was renamed Anderson Park and housed the Invercargill Public Art Gallery, which was established in the homestead in the same year.