The trustee savings bank movement built a proud history in the south, beginning with the opening of the Invercargill Savings Bank in 1864. By the mid-1980s Southland's trustee bank was known as Trust Bank Southland, with informal 'community ownership'. In 1988 the banking industry in New Zealand was deregulated, and Trust Bank Southland was converted to a company, with the Trust Bank Southland Community Trust being formed to become the company's sole shareholder. This gave formal recognition to the community ownership.
The Finance Minister of the day, Roger Douglas, appointed Invercargill architect Bob Simpson as the Trust's inaugural chair, and 11 people of standing in their community as Trustees to govern the fledgling Trust. In making these initial (and subsequent) trustee appointments, the Minister looked to achieve a balance of skills and experience, as well as appropriate gender, ethnic, and geographical representation amongst the group.
In 1994 Colin Ballantyne was appointed to chair the Trust, holding that position until August 2001 when Wayne Harpur took over the role until November 2004. Alison Broad was chair from November 2004 to November 2008, followed by Tracy Hicks who chaired the Trust from 2008 to 2012 and again in 2013 to 2014. Robin Campbell was chair from 2012 to 2013 and Trish Boyle chaired the Trust from 2014 to 2016 and again from 2020 to 2021. Margot Hishon held the role from November 2016 to May 2019. Penny Simmonds was the Trust’s chair from 2019 to 2020. Mata Cherrington became Kaiwhakahaere with the recent retirement as a Trustee of Trish Boyle.
In 1988 the Trust Bank Southland Community Trust exchanged its shares in Trust Bank Southland Limited for 13.9% of the shares in Trust Bank New Zealand and retained ownership of those shares until April 1996 when Trust Bank New Zealand was sold to the Westpac Banking Corporation. The Trust Bank Southland Community Trust received $158 million as its share of the sale proceeds of the bank.
From holding just one investment up until that time - ownership of shares in Trust Bank New Zealand - the sale of the bank in 1996 triggered a rapid change in the Trust's investments, with the organisation now having diversified into investments in cash, New Zealand and overseas shares and bonds, infrastructure, property, private equity and impact investments.
From 1988 until August 1996 Vince Petrie was the part-time secretary of the Trust. In August 1996 the Trust appointed its first full-time Chief Executive, Michael Goodchild, who held the position until February 1998. John Prendergast was then appointed in March 1998 and continued as the Trust's Chief Executive until June 2017. Denis Woods was the Trust’s interim General Manager from June 2017 through to February 2018, with the current General Manager being Jackie Flutey.
In mid-1998, after the sale of its shares in Trust Bank New Zealand, the Trust changed its name from the 'Trust Bank Southland Community Trust' to the 'Community Trust of Southland'. Then in 2018 the Trust changed its name and branding to Community Trust South to better reflect the Trust’s region.
The Trust represents the people in the area previously served by Trust Bank Southland, which includes the Southland province as well as the Queenstown, Glenorchy, Arrowtown and Tapanui areas. In November 2019 the boundary between Community Trust South and Otago Community Trust was adjusted to include Milford Sound, Paradise, the whole Queenstown Ward area in the Community Trust South area, some minor adjustments were also made to align with current district and ward boundaries.
The Trust provides significant funding to a wide range of community organisations for projects, services and programmes - and since inception in 1988 to 31 March 2021 it has distributed $209 million in grants.
This part of southern New Zealand is now one of the wealthiest regions - in terms of community philanthropic wealth. The reason for this is the size of Community Trust South’s assets, co-existing with three other significant community funders - the ILT & ILT Foundation, the Mataura Licensing Trust and the Central Lakes Trust.