Shipwreck trust quietly helps families

It is a cheque that often arrives out of the blue at a time of stress and grief.

That is because confidentiality trumps kudos for the Dunedin-based New Zealand Shipwreck Welfare Trust as it quietly goes about its work.

"We're unobtrusive and we'd like to keep it that way," managing trustee Bruce Collins said.

Sent to the widows and dependant children of people who have lost their lives at sea while working in the fishing or maritime industry, the $800 cheque usually arrives within two to three weeks of the shipwreck or mishap, regardless of the family's means.

A month later an identical cheque would arrive and this would continue for a total of nine months.

"It spreads it out for the person so they don't get a lump sum at once and then it's all gone," Mr Collins said.

Other benefits would also be in place by then.

News reports helped keep the trust informed about what was happening around the coast and were usually followed up with the police or other sources like community boards.

Largely dependent on donations for its funding, the trust was particularly grateful for the support of the Federation of Commercial Fishermen, which regularly donated the proceeds of its annual charity auction.

The trust was also very conscious of its responsibility to make sure donations were invested carefully. It has six trustees and an advisory board.

Previously known as the Shipwreck Relief Society of New Zealand Inc, it has operated for the past 110 years. Discreetly.


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