About Us

Mō Mātou

Otago Community Trust 

Working together with our communities

Otago Community Trust is a community-owned charitable trust that provides grants to assist community projects that make a significant and positive contribution to Otago communities.

The Government established Otago Community Trust by statute in 1988, to hold and manage the shares of Trust Bank Otago. In 1996, Otago Community Trust left banking and the shares were sold to Westpac New Zealand, with the proceeds of the sale invested.

This sale gave the Trust its founding capital of $131 million and the freedom to operate independently of a commercial entity. Since then, Otago Community Trust has managed those investments, using a portion of the profits each year to support community groups and projects throughout the Otago region. 

Otago Community Trust receives no income from other funders or gaming machines.

Over the last 35 years, the Otago Community Trust has given back approximately $212 million to Otago communities. These grants range in size including small one-off grants, multi year and regular grants to community organisations, and large capital grants for one-off major community projects.

Our Vision

Otago Community Trust's vision is for our communities to be vibrant and resilient, and protective of people, heritage and environment.

Our Funding Area

The Otago Community Trust funding area incorporates the provincial district of Otago. We support organisations who work in our five regions - North Otago, Central Otago, South Otago, Greater Dunedin and the Wānaka ward of the Queenstown Lakes district.

West Otago, Queenstown and Arrowtown districts are NOT in our funding area and fall within the funding area of the Community Trust South. For more information on the Community Trust South, click HERE.

We can only consider applications from organisations or for projects outside of this area if there is a very clear and demonstrated benefit for the people and communities of Otago.

A detailed boundary map is outlined below. 

Otago Community Trust History

The early days

The early trustee savings banks originated in Scotland in 1810, enabling anyone – not just the rich – to open a bank account and save. The deposits were owned by the depositors as a co-operative, with any surplus funds used for long-term savings schemes and community charitable projects. New Zealand’s first trustee savings bank opened in Wellington in 1846, followed by another a year later in Auckland.

Over the next 150 years, more trustee banks were established across New Zealand, and they were highly regulated – the banks were only permitted to operate within defined regional boundaries, and they had to provide services to everyone within those boundaries who wanted them. The banks’ profits could only be given to specific Government-approved institutions, like hospitals, libraries and museums or particular social service providers.

Here in Otago

Otago Community Trust had its origins in the Dunedin Savings Bank, established in 1864 by public spirited citizens seeking to encourage thrift within the community, and distribute surplus profits to charitable causes. The establishment of the Bank was sanctioned by the Government under the Savings Bank Act 1858, which however failed to make provision for the disbursement of surplus profits for charitable purposes which was a key objective when the Bank was established. This was rectified in 1878 with the passing of the Dunedin Savings Bank Profits Bill. The Bank's first gift of 7,515 pounds was donated to the Otago Benevolent Trust in 1879, which in todays terms is over $1 million.  

For the next 110 years the Bank steadily grew and with expansion came the establishment of branches, the first in South Dunedin in 1925. To reflect its Otago wide reach, the Bank changed its name to the Otago Savings Bank and subsequently Trust Bank Otago.

Government deregulation

In 1988 the Government restructured trustee savings banks and gifted ownership of Trust Bank Otago to the community through the establishment of the Trust Bank Otago Community Trust. It appointed Trustees to manage the Trust's operations, including the making of grants from its dividends to community groups for charitable, cultural, philanthropic, recreational and other purposes that provide a benefit to the community.

Amalgamation of the regional banks resulted in the establishment of Trust Bank New Zealand Ltd. The Otago Community Trust's 100% shareholding in Trust Bank Otago Ltd was exchanged for a 13.5% holding in Trust Bank New Zealand Ltd (TBNZ).

With such high value attached to a single investment Trustees considered it prudent to spread the investment risk. In 1994 the Trust sold half its shares in TBNZ and in 1996 sold the remaining half to Westpac which had made a takeover offer for TBNZ. The sale ended a 132 year ownership of the trustee savings bank by the community.

While links with the Trust Bank were severed in 1996 the legacy of the Bank lives on in the Trust. The Bank proudly identified itself as “the people’s bank”. It was founded by Dunedin people, encouraging Dunedin industry and enterprise and ploughed its profits back into its area, it became a community asset for over 100 years with high standards of integrity and a desire to serve the community. It is this legacy that lives on in the Otago Community Trust.

Governance and operations

Income from the Trust's diverse international investments fund today's projects. Otago Community Trust has an independent investment advisor helping guide the trust’s investment processes. The community trusts were set up to run in perpetuity. 

Otago Community Trust is governed by 11 Trustees who are appointed by the Minister of Finance for a four year term. The Trustees collectively hold a range of invaluable skills, experience and knowledge that guide the activities of the Trust. They meet monthly to consider grant requests, operational items and strategic direction.


Founding Trustees of Trust Bank Otago Community Trust 1996


Back Row: Peter Gibson, Richard McKnight, Graeme Bell, David Polson, Clive Matthewson, Nancy Bamford, Keith Ellwood (Chief Director), David Pasley.

Front Row: Sir Robin Gray, Richard Walls, Carol Melville (Chairperson), Dr James Ng, Ross Allan.

Founding Documents

Community Trusts Act, Trusts Act & Our Trust Deed

Otago Community Trust operates under the Community Trusts Act 1999, the Trusts Act 2019 and the terms of our Trust Deed. 

The purpose of the Act is to make provision for the continued operation of the community trusts that were established under the Trustee Banks Restructuring Act 1988 to acquire the shares in the capital of a trustee bank's successor company.

Community Trusts Act 1999

The Otago Community Trust operates under the Community Trusts Act 1999.

This Act makes provision for the continued operation of Community Trusts established under the Trustee Banks Restructuring Act 1988.

This Act is administered by the Department of Internal Affairs, details can be found on the New Zealand Government Legislation Web Site here.

Trusts Act 2019

The Trusts Act 2019 passed on 30 July 2019 and replaces the Trustee Act 1956.

The Act clarifies and modernises existing trust law and comes with some significant changes.

This Act is administered by the Department of Internal Affairs, details can be found on the New Zealand Government Legislation Web Site here.


Otago Community Trust - Trust Deed

The Trust Deed can be viewed below: 

Trust Deed 2021

2021 PDF 1388 KB