About us

We believe law is essential to a flourishing society – one that is just, inclusive, tolerant and free. We're here to make a difference to the lives of New Zealanders, through the law. We do this by supporting legal research, education and scholarship through effective philanthropy.

Vision & Mission

The Borrin Foundation’s vision lies at the heart of why we're here and everything that we do.


We believe law is essential to a flourishing society – one that is just, inclusive, tolerant and free. Our vision is of an Aotearoa New Zealand where everyone understands the role and value of the law, and everyone enjoys the protection and opportunity that it provides.


We support legal research, education and scholarship that contributes to our vision for Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Borrin family

Judge Ian Borrin’s parents, Michael and Suzanne Borrin, came to New Zealand from Warsaw in the early 1930s. The tragedy of losing their Jewish family and friends in World War II left them with deep gratitude to New Zealand for providing safe refuge. The Borrin Foundation is the family's gift back to New Zealand.

Michael and Suzanne Borrin's story

Michael and Suzanne Borrin came to New Zealand from Warsaw, Poland, in the early 1930s, a young Jewish couple looking to start a new life. They established a highly successful clothing manufacturing company in Wellington called ‘Peerless’, which generated the majority of their wealth.

Many of the couple’s Jewish family members and friends left in Warsaw would go on to lose their lives in death camps during World War II. This tragedy left Michael and Suzanne with immense gratitude to New Zealand for providing them with safe refuge, and a desire to give something back to their adopted country.

Philanthropy and generosity were always a big part of Michael and Suzanne’s lives. They saw their success and the community’s success as intertwined.

Michael Borrin,
c. 1990s, New Zealand

Suzanne Borrin (nee Krinsky),
c. 1920s, Poland

Judge Ian Albert Borrin

Ian Borrin was Michael and Suzanne’s only child. He was born in Wellington in 1935.

Ian dedicated his life to the law. He progressed from law school to become a practising lawyer, a Family Court Judge and then head of the Police Complaints Authority (now the Independent Police Conduct Authority). He was hardworking and loved his work. He is said to have never taken a day’s leave from his role as head of the Authority (2001-2007).

Judge Borrin’s commitment to his work stemmed from his passionate belief that the law should be a force for good in the world. He cared deeply about people and about the role of law in society.

On his death in March 2016, Ian Borrin left a large bequest ($38 million) to establish the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation. This generous legacy both honours his parents and gives a gift to all of New Zealand. It reflects the Borrin family’s deep gratitude and commitment to New Zealand, Ian’s love of the law and his conviction that law provides an essential foundation for a flourishing society.

Judge Ian Borrin (Photo credit: Stuff/Dominion Post

Judge Borrin’s commitment to his work stemmed from his deeply held belief that the law should be a force for good in the world. He cared deeply about people and about the role of law in society.

Effective philanthropy

At the heart of every philanthropist and grantmaker is the desire to make an impact. However, as Warren Buffet (a trustee of the Gates Foundation) said: “It is far easier to make money than to give it away effectively.”

We know it is a unique privilege to participate in distributing money to make the world a better place. And we are eager to create a powerful and effective result through our philanthropy.

What is ‘philanthropy’?

The word ‘philanthropy’ comes from the Greek philanthropia, the love of humanity. Philanthropia involves both the benefactor and the beneficiary, and emphasises caring for, nourishing, developing and enhancing what it means to be human. A modern tag line for philanthropy is "private wealth, for the public good".

Philanthropy is not the same thing as charity; not all charity is philanthropy, or vice versa, though there is overlap. A difference commonly cited is that charity ‘aims to relieve the pain of a particular social problem’, whereas philanthropy ‘attempts to address the root cause of the problem’ – the difference between the proverbial gift of a fish to a hungry person versus teaching them how to fish.

“Philanthropy at its best serves the public good, is responsive to people and communities with the least wealth and opportunity, and is held accountable to the highest standards of integrity and openness.”
– National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

Our approach to philanthropy

We believe we can ‘do more than give’. This means we want to move beyond ‘transactional philanthropy’, where we simply assess applications and send out money. Instead, we see ourselves as an active participant in the business of solving social problems.

We have studied and want to execute ‘strategic’ or ‘wise’ philanthropy. This means we will:

  • Seek to maximise the impact of our funding.
  • Focus on ‘areas of profound concern’. These are areas where the law is not serving New Zealanders well. We understand this will involve tackling some hard issues and big challenges over a long time.
  • Seek to be a proactive and focused funder. We envisage our main focus will be on a smaller number of grants that are of higher value and for longer-term.

We will continue to study and reflect on our activities and our grant-making. And we are committed to our own learning and improvement. We welcome feedback.

Good philanthropy addresses the
causes that made philanthropy necessary in the first place

Our people

The Borrin Foundation’s grant-making is led by its Grants and Scholarships Committee, supported by the Chief Philanthropic Officer. The Borrin Foundation’s trustee is the Nikau Foundation. We are also assisted by many wonderful contributors.

Grants and Scholarships Committee (GSC)

David Goddard, QC

Chairperson Grants and Scholarships Committee

David is one of New Zealand’s leading barristers. He specialises in appellate advocacy, appearing frequently before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. 

David began his legal studies at Victoria University, then studied law at Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. He taught law at Bristol University from 1986 to 1988, before returning to New Zealand in 1989 to practise law. He spent 10 years at the law firm Chapman Tripp before going to the bar in 1999. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2003. 

David has had an extensive involvement in law reform in New Zealand and overseas over the last 30 years, advising ministers and government agencies on a wide range of policy issues. He has represented New Zealand in bilateral and multilateral treaty negotiations and is currently chairing a series of intergovernmental meetings at the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

Ian Borrin was David’s first cousin once removed – his “Uncle Ian”. Ian shared his love of the outdoors with David, teaching him to ski and taking him tramping in the New Zealand mountains. Ian also took a close interest in David’s legal career. 

"Ian’s legacy provides us with a great opportunity – and responsibility – to make a difference to New Zealanders, through the law. I look forward to working alongside, and learning from, talented and innovative people who share our vision and our commitment."

Sir Terence Arnold

Nominee of the Chief Justice

Sir Terence researched and taught at law schools in Canada and New Zealand for over a decade, principally in the area of criminal justice, before joining Chapman Tripp as a litigation solicitor in 1982. He became a partner in 1985, undertaking a variety of commercial litigation but developing a particular interest in competition and regulatory issues. In 1994 he joined the bar and in 1997 he was appointed Queen’s Counsel. He became Solicitor-General in 2000 and was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2006, where he served until 2013, when he was appointed to the Supreme Court.

Sir Terence retired as a permanent member of the Supreme Court in April 2017 but continues to sit when required as an Acting Judge. He has been active in teaching, writing, and presenting seminars in a variety of areas and was closely involved in the development of skills-based training for litigators. He has a continuing interest in law reform.

“Meaningful change to the law and the justice system requires top-quality research and analysis. The extraordinary generosity of the late Judge Borrin provides an opportunity to support the kind of research and thinking that is capable of producing meaningful change. It’s fascinating – and a little daunting – to be involved in giving life to Judge Borrin’s vision.”

Kathryn Beck

President of the Law Society

Kathryn Beck became the 30th President of the New Zealand Law Society in April 2016. A well-known employment lawyer, she is a partner of specialist Auckland employment law firm SBM Legal. She has acted in many leading cases and is a key adviser and facilitator in several ongoing, high-level union-employer relationships. Kathryn’s areas of practice also include health and education law, and she has considerable experience in alternative dispute resolution acting as a mediator and facilitator. Kathryn has conducted independent investigations for several large companies, charitable institutions, trust boards and a government department. Kathryn recently chaired NZ Rugby's Respect and Responsibility Review and now chairs its Advisory Panel. She also sits on the board of the Auckland Community Law Centre.

"It is a privilege to be involved in framing how this extraordinary gift from Judge Borrin will be used and to look at how real change can be achieved in our justice system. I am excited and genuinely hopeful about what can be done through the work of the Grantees."

Mark Hickford

Dean of Victoria University Law School

Mark Hickford has been Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Law at Victoria University of Wellington since May 2015. He has held a range of senior roles in the public and private sectors, including (most recently) being in the Prime Minister’s Policy Advisory Group in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He spent eight years as a Crown Counsel at the Crown Law Office, specialising in public law, the Treaty of Waitangi, Crown-Māori relations, and natural resources law.

Mark has published on aboriginal title and customary rights, issues relating to the Treaty of Waitangi, and the history of New Zealand’s constitution and laws. He holds degrees from the University of Auckland and a doctorate from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

“The generosity of Ian Borrin and his family will have a lasting impact on legal scholarship in this country. It is an honour to be involved in a Foundation set to strengthen and enhance the legal system that underpins life in New Zealand.”

Richard Caughley

Nominee of the Nikau Foundation

Richard Caughley is a partner at Morrison Kent Wellington, where he heads the commercial property team. Richard has been a trustee of the Nikau Foundation for 14 years. From age 25 when he ran for the Wellington City Council to the present day, Richard has been passionate about Wellington, its people and its prospects. Richard graduated with a law degree from Victoria University and has been a practising lawyer more years than he cares to remember.

"When Ian signed the deed creating his foundation I thanked him for his confidence in the Nikau Foundation and said we would not let him down. Now it is about fulfilling the promise."

Chief Philanthropic Officer

Michelle Wanwimolruk

Chief Philanthropic Officer

Michelle’s stakeholder engagement, research and analysis work supports the Grants and Scholarships Committee’s operations. Michelle’s background is in management consultancy and diplomacy. As a management consultant, she led and delivered strategy projects in the not-for-profit and public sector, including about collective impact and social change. Prior to that she was a career diplomat working in New York, New Delhi, and Wellington on a range of foreign policy and international trade issues. Michelle’s true passions are philanthropy and social change. She holds an LLB (Hons) BA and is delighted to be returning to the main interest of her academic life: the interaction of law and society.

“I believe Aotearoa New Zealand can be a ‘flourishing society – one that is just, inclusive, tolerant and free’. It is inspiring and humbling to meet and work with so many amazing ‘doers’, the people who will bring us closer to our shared vision. Judge Ian Borrin has left a wonderful gift to New Zealand.”


Nikau Foundation


The Nikau Foundation is the community foundation for the Greater Wellington Region and is the trustee for the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation. A community foundation is an independent philanthropic organisation working in a specific geographic region to encourage and facilitate generosity. The Nikau Foundation attracts gifts, handover trusts, legacies, and community organisation endowments and invests them. The income from these investments is distributed to charitable organisations in accordance with the donor’s wishes in perpetuity.

In its capacity as trustee, the Nikau Foundation has supported the establishment of the Borrin Foundation and is responsible for managing the Foundation's investments to maximise the funds available. This ensures the foundation can realise its vision and mission.

Visit: https://www.nikaufoundation.org.nz/ to find out more about giving a donation or leaving a bequest as a lasting legacy.

Governance and policies

The Borrin Foundation’s trust deed governs the Borrin Foundation. The Nikau Foundation is our sole trustee.

In accordance with the Trust Deed, the Grants and Scholarships Committee (GSC) operates independently of the Trustee and makes recommendations about grants and scholarships to be paid from the Trust Fund. Although the GSC’s recommendations are not binding on the Trustee, the Trustee does not overrule or ignore recommendations from the GSC without substantial reason.

The GSC has also adopted two policy and practice guides:


The Borrin Foundation is a financially independent foundation. We are a registered charity. Our financial returns are available on the Charities Services website.

The Borrin Foundation is a financially independent foundation due to the generosity of the late Judge Ian Borrin. The original corpus/endowment of capital and investments was $38 million, mostly transferred as the Borrin estate was wound up in 2016-2017. The Borrin Foundation’s assets are made up of shares and commercial properties in Wellington. These investments generate the money for our philanthropic work.

The Borrin Foundation’s trustee - the Nikau Foundation - is responsible for the careful management of the Borrin Foundation’s corpus to maximise returns for our grant-making. Key policy documents are below:

The Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation is registered with the Charities Services. You can find all our past financial returns on the Charities Services website. Our Charities number is: CC53658


Keri Porter

Administration Support, EA to the Chief Philanthropic Officer

Keri provides part-time administration support for the Borrin Foundation. Her attention to detail and ability to juggle multiple tasks with a smile on her face make her priceless. In her personal life she is also an accomplished ballroom dancer who judges New Zealand dancing competitions.

Sue Elliott

Media liaison

Sue is a media and strategic communications consultant who assists the Borrin Foundation with media engagement. She has had a long career in strategic communications and government relations. Sue is also Chairperson of the Wellington Sculpture Trust, and has long been a supporter of the not-for-profit and community sector. 

Phil Dunstan-Brown

Brand designer

Phil designed the Borrin Foundation’s brand identity and visual assets. He is a strong strategic thinker and a design-thinking advocate. Phil is the owner of Provenance, a consultancy specialising in creative strategy, design and art direction. He is also the Creative Director at DNA.

Zakary Kinnaird

Digital designer

Zak designed and maintains the Borrin Foundation website. He is an award-winning digital designer with a passion for translating brand experiences online. He is also a digital designer at Xero.

Sara Finlay

Copywriter and copy editor

Sara provides copywriting and editing services to the Borrin Foundation. Her passion is how we tell our stories in writing. She has masters degrees in both English literature and creative writing, and over 15 years' experience in writing and editing across realms including corporate, medical and governmental.