The Taumarunui Museum Trust was conceptualised and founded by King Country historian Ron Cooke. A trusted photographer in Taumarunui for many years, he had collected the archived newspapers, photograph collections and so on for decades, many having entrusted their family heirlooms to him for safe keeping.
He was tireless in his desire to secure, protect and share his and others’ life’s work and conceptualised a repository for the region’s taonga.
He promoted his ideas through the local newspapers and business groups during the 1970s & 1980s. He established the trust as a charitable organisation and spearheaded the purchase of a two-storey building which they named The Memory Bank.
For some decades the Taumarunui Museum Trust operated from the building and while there was a substantial dysfunction within the trust that resulted in litigation and deep division within the community they did remain a viable operation.
In 2018 though, the trustees eventually determined to sell up and did so. They evicted their founder and his collection of photos and archives, and refused to share any of the income with the founder whom they considered to be intransigent over his continued refusal to gift his collection to them.
In 2018, they conspired to gift $50,000.00 (the residue of the building sale) to the local council who promoted a new local museum in the Railway station, a project that was supported by all other local historical entities.
Ron Cooke and Dennis A. Smith established a second charitable trust King Country Education Trust and KCET purchased the collection from Ron Cooke.
In 2019 KCET commenced litigation. KCET’s position is that:
- The people of the King Country gave to TMT (a charitable trust) primarily to support the housing and preservation of Ron Cooke’s collection;
- The TMT Trustees had (by way of the original trust deed) the legal right to sell The Memory Bank building and to evict Ron Cooke & his collection;
- They also had the right to determine the use of those funds but that this was only subject to their fulfilling the terms of the gifting of the building (i.e. the housing of Ron Cooke’s collection); and
- When the TMT Trustees refused to assist KCET as new owner of Ron’s Collection to house that it committed a Breach of Trust.