Central Division

Some of you will have heard this at the Divisional Conference but it is so inspiring as to what we have achieved as Freemasons that I will share it with you again here.

The following is a summary of the presentation made by Warick Dunn  C.E.O. of The Masonic Villages Trust

Aged Care and Masonic Trusts

The Masonic Villages Trust, a registered charity, has been providing great care and great communities to older people and others in need since 1967.

The Trust is one of the largest charitable retirement and rest home providers in the southern half of the North Island, and has stand-alone retirement villages in Eltham, Foxton, Hawera, New Plymouth and Waitara. At its villages in Levin, Lower Hutt, Masterton and Palmerston North, it also operates care facilities providing rest home and hospital level care. The Central Division therefore has the largest number of Masonic aged care facilities in Freemasonry, covered by four Trusts, Napier & Hastings, Ruapehu, Wanganui, and the Masonic Villages Trust 

As a charity, The Masonic Villages Trust is reliant on the kindness and goodwill of its many supporters to provide a higher quality of care and service for its residents and patients than government funding allows.

All of the Trust’s villages were set up independently by Freemason lodges based in different regions of the southern North Island. Initial funding came from local lodges, charitable donations from individual Freemasons, their families and the wider community, together with government grants. Site development often involved the voluntary efforts of lodge members.

All the villages operate on the charitable and benevolent principles that lie at the core of Freemasonry. In recent years, the villages have come together under the umbrella of the Trust to share resources, spread overheads and to ensure greater resilience.

The Trust’s villages perform an important role, providing homes and care to older people with a wide range of interests, lifestyles and budgets. We also have villages located in suburbs and provincial towns where it is uneconomic for the commercial providers to operate. This allows residents to retire in the community where they have lived their lives, close to friends and family.

Because each village was set up by Freemasons working with their local community, each village has a distinctive character and culture which reflects the interests and needs of its residents. This local flavour is maintained under the umbrella of the Trust, which allows each village a high degree of local autonomy.

Some Numbers

50% of the Masonic Villages Trust Board, are Freemasons appointed by the Div. GM

Turnover $28 million with a surplus of $2.16 million

Gross assets $237 million and nett assets $120 million

450 employees’, a 1000 bed units and 31 villages

Building on our success a $50 million facility is being built in Wainuiomata, and the Edale Aged Care Trust in Marton will merge with the Masonic Villages Trust in April 2018.

In summary as the conference theme is Building on our success, I would remind you what the eldercare trusts do is incredible successful and with your help we could do better, come and visit us.


And if that does not make you want to Speak Up for Freemasonry nothing will!!

Greetings Brethren

Not sure how you spent last Saturday but I had the pleasure of spending it with 149 other brethren at the Central Division Conference. It was a record turnout and we covered a multitude of subjects with of course the usual constitutional requirements of a business session and remits.

Steve in full flight.


Steve Griffin from Lodge Waikanae gave a very enlightening address on Lodge Planning (see below for the follow up to this). Chris Bryant and Malcolm Harfitt then presented their thoughts on how best to promote Freemasonry.  

Warick Dunn from The Masonic Villages Trust spoke about the level and importance of the aged care facilities provided by the various Masonic Trusts and I can safely say there was general amazement in the room as to the size and extent of just what our Trusts are providing. Watch the website for further information in coming weeks.

Warick Dunn amazing us with a report on our Trusts.

Our new Executive Director then rounded the morning off with a presentation on the use of Social Media, with the support of Damian Birchman and Mick Turner.

After a healthy and hearty lunch, the Heartland Bank represented by Brett Hewson, presented the annual scholarship to Anneke Mayhead. 

Anneke receiving her scholarship.



The usual business session followed with remits and an address by Peter Benstead as President of the Board. Bob Monson as Grand Almoner gave us an update on the Freemasons Charity and our final speaker was Michelle Kitney General Manager of Volunteer New Zealand. Michell’s message was simple, the problems we face are no different to those facing every organisation and that we needed to positively promote ourselves.

The day finished with an hour’s fellowship.

My thanks to everyone involved, especially my team of Sidney Hill and his helpers, Stephen Sherring and Dennis Blacklaws. And finally I had the pleasure of presenting to each of the District Grand Masters new wands for the District Grand Directors of Ceremonies. These were made by Graham Nicolson and Tom Greaves for the Division and my thanks to both of them. I asked the DistGM's to present these at their first opportunity.

Over the next couple of months, we will be running a series of District Meetings. The first series is focusing on the roles of secretaries and Lodge Planning. Put these dates in your diaries. More information to follow.


Ruapehu No. 15  1 May & TBC

Taranaki No. 14  10 May & TBC

Kapiti Wellington No. 19  23 April & 7 May

Eastland Ruahine No. 17  22 May & 23 May

Hutt Wairarapa No. 21  29 May & 31 May

Photos courtesy of Morris Robertson.

Brethren it is with considerable pleasure that I welcome to the Divisional Team, WBro. Russell Pratt PGS as the new District Grand Master for the Kapiti Wellington District.

Russell is a fifth generation Freemasons and was initiated into The Coronation Lodge 127 as a Lewis in February 1983. He was Master of Lodge St Matthew in Masterton in 1997 and again Empire Fergusson Lodge No. 225 in 2010. He is also a member of the Waihenga St John’s Lodge and a member of the Research Lodge of Wellington.

Since November 2013, Russell has been the Divisional Representative on the Board of General Purposes. Russell has also been the driving force behind the formation, development and maintenance of the Central Division Website for the last 5 years and latterly the Northern and Southern Divisions websites.

Married to Tania and with 6 children (three daughter’s weddings in the last 6 months which have kept him busy) Russell can best be described as an entrepreneur having been self-employed for the past 30 years.

He is passionate about Freemasonry and he brings to the role a wealth of business and masonic skills.

Russell takes up the role on 1 March 2018 and a date for his investiture will be advised shortly.

I look forward to working with him over the next two years.

RWBro. Jim Watt

Divisional Grand Master




Two important events that every Brother should attend.

Both are open to all Masons – from Entered Apprentices, Fellowcrafts and Master Masons through to the Grand Master.

2018 Central Division Conference – 24 March 2018 in New Plymouth

Organise the brethren of your Lodge now and make it a road trip.

2019 Grand Installation – 15/17 November 2019 in Wellington

This is our Triennial premier showcase event. Lodges should ensure that their Master and Wardens attend. Start putting away funds now.




By the way - How many Lodges have you visited this month?


Happy New Year to you all – I trust you all manged to get time with those you love, and you have started the New Year revitalized and ready for a busy Masonic 2018.

What lies ahead?

I would like to say that in 2018 we will solve all our problems, that membership will blossom, management of our Lodges will be streamlined and simpler, we will all be better informed on what is happening within the craft, and all will be bright and rosy in Freemasonry.

Well I can –to some extent at least, but it is going to take time and effort from all of us -

Watch out for a trial social media membership programme coming to your District shortly.

Be prepared to attend the District workshops in April and May for Masters and Secretaries where we will provide training for the new reporting system on the Divisional web site and provide help on Lodge planning.

We have a new Executive Director, Bro. Gareth Turner, who has been charged with reviewing the operation of Head Office including updating communications.

And -

We have the Divisional Conference which is being held in Palmerston North (moved from New Plymouth) on Saturday 24th where we are going to focus on all these items, plus have an in-depth look at the importance of Lodge Planning.

Go now to http://www.themasons.org.nz/cdiv/conf2018.html and register for the conference.


For Entered Apprentice’s, Fellowcrafts and Master Masons – registration is free, up till 28 February .

There is no ladies programme.

There is no dinner, though there will be a networking session with cash bar and canapes for two hours after conference close.

Make your booking now to secure your place.

Look forward to seeing you all in the coming year.




Christmas is traditionally a time for families and friends to come together, but regrettably in 2017 we have seen many of our brethren, their wives or partners, and our lodge widows pass to the “Grand Lodge Above” and our thoughts are with their families on this, their first Christmas without them.

Our thoughts also go out to those “who perhaps from unavoidable calamity or misfortune, are reduced to the lowest ebb of poverty and distress” and we trust that somewhere in the world a brother extends to them a helping hand and that 2018 dawns as a new and properous year for them.

Like many of you, our family is spread far and wide, so this Christmas for us will be a quiet one spent on a road trip, camping on one or more of the many beautiful beaches that abound our coastline.

Penny and I extend to you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We trust that you all keep safe and we look forward to seeing you all in 2018 and as we say on the road "keep the shiny side up!!!!".

Very Worshipful Brother Mervyn James Johnston

District Grand Master

1947 – 2017

Initiated - Lodge Tawera – O – Kapiti No. 253 - 17/06/1997

Passed - Lodge Tawera – O – Kapiti No. 253 - 21/10/1997

Raised - Lodge Tawera – O – Kapiti No. 253 - 21/04/1998

Master - United Horowhenua Lodge No. 464 - 2009/2010/2011

District Grand Master – Kapiti/Wellington District No. 19 - 2016/2017

Merv can best be described as one of life’s true gentlemen. A dedicated Mason and a prolific visitor. Merv had the ability to relate to all that he met, and this was evidenced in his election as District Grand Master.

In his brief term as District Grand Master he has implemented a number of initiatives and he was working steadily on taking the District forward. He was a strong advocate for his District and he spoke passionately on where he felt the District should be and how he was going to assist it in getting it there.

He leaves us with the legacy of a strong District team and a District which is in good heart.

Out thoughts are with Denise, his family and friends.

Rest in Peace Good Friend

Lodge Almoner or Lodge Charity Officer?

Does your Lodge have one of each?

Do you understand their respective roles?

At his investiture, the Lodge Almoner is told:

Your jewel is a scrip purse with a heart engraved thereon, an emblem of Brotherly Love and Benevolence.

Your duty is to visit the sick and such of your Brethren as are in need, to dispense such comforts as in your opinion are necessary, reporting back to the Lodge for further action if required, always remembering that brightest jewel of our Order, charity, raising

His duty is to the Brethren of the Lodge and to the Lodges Widows. He may be involved in applications to the Freemasons Charity when assistance is required, but primarily his role is one of maintaining contact with the brethren and widows and reporting back to the Lodge as and when required.

The Lodge Charity Officer on the other hand is the direct link between the Lodge and The Freemasons Charity. Their role is to apply for and manage the dispensing of charity from the Lodge to the respective recipients, who may not necessarily be masons or have a masonic connection.

Within a Lodge, the Lodge Almoner and Lodge Charity officer may be the same person though we recommend that they not, so that the two roles are kept distinct and are not confused.

So how should it all work?

Masonic Assistance: Should assistance be required for a brother or widow then the Lodge Almoner should bring this to the attention of the Lodge who will in turn decide on what action is required. If an application is to be made to the Freemasons Charity for assistance, then at this stage the Lodge Charity Officer should become involved.

Non-Masonic Assistance: If the Lodge wishes to undertake a lodge project, regardless of whether it is going to require assistance from the Freemasons Charity or not, this should come under supervision of the Lodge Charity Officer.

What does the Lodge Charity Officer have to do?

Before the Lodge commits itself to any project or any form of benevolence, masonic or otherwise that may require Freemasons Charitable assistance, the Lodge Charity Officer should contact the District Charity Officer to ascertain if the application will meet the criteria as required by the Charity. If it does, then the Lodge Charity Officer can proceed with the formal application.

What happens next?

The Lodge application once completed, is forwarded to the District Charity Officer, who after confirming that it is all in order and that the application meets the criteria then forwards it to the Divisional Almoner for approval and processing. Once approved, funds are deposited into the Lodge bank account.

NOTE: We do not give away cash. Funds deposited must be used for goods or services.

So why should I make an application to the Freemasons Charity?

The Freemasons Charity is your charity and its role is to aid the Lodges when they embark on a charitable or benevolent project (subject to criteria of course).

For example, your Lodge may have a project in mind that requires $2000.00 to complete. An application to the Freemasons Charity which meets the criteria may see it qualify for a 1 for 1 subsidy, meaning your Lodge now only needs to contribute $1000.00 or half of what is required.

In some circumstances, a multi Lodge project or a District project may qualify for an even higher subsidy.

What does my Lodge Need to do?

Appoint a Lodge Charity Officer, then make contact with your District Grand Master and District Charity Officer who will walk him through process of what is required to make an application to the Freemasons Charity.

And once he is appointed use him. Become active in your community and more importantly support your brethren and widows when assistance is required.


If your Lodge was to close tomorrow would your local community notice?

Is your Lodge part of its community – or is it just “that drab building” that occasionally has cars parked outside and men coming and going?

If we want good men to join us then we need to be visible and the best way to do this is to become part of our local communities, show them who we are and what we believe in.

How do we show them what we believe in?

Simply by becoming involved in our community and I don’t mean by throwing money at project, all too often we see this as the all solving solution to benevolence, I mean by getting out and being involved.

Have you considered having your neighbours over for “tea and a scone”?

Find a group, an organization, an individual who needs assistance, the local play group, toy library, fitness club, see what they need, no doubt most will welcome financial help but they may also welcome free use of the Lodge Rooms on Saturday for a book auction or as an occasional meeting place, it could be as simple as them using your parking when there is no lodge meetings on.

Do you remember a couple of months back the marae that opened its doors to flood victims? Would your lodge be prepared to do this in the event of a local emergency?

Our survival lies in our local community, it is right outside our doors!!!