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Lawyer Bryan Mahon: a Takapuna trailblazer

Flagstaff Team

Robert Bryan Gladstone Mahon, a well- known lawyer who founded the North Shore’s first legal practice and went on to pioneer cross-lease sections in New Zealand, died this month. He was 97.

Mahon’s career and lifetime of civic service was commended by the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board at its monthly meeting. One of his former staff members and a current board member, Jan O’Connor, described Mahon as a “truly respected gentleman” and outlined his contributions. Board deputy chairperson George Wood acknowledged his service in Italy during World War II.

Mahon was a born-and-bred North Shore boy, moving from Saltburn Rd, Milford, to Black Rock, now the Stables, where Kitchener and Hurstmere Rds meet, with his mother and two younger siblings after his father was killed in a car accident. The house still stands. He attended Belmont Primary School and Takapuna Grammar, where he was in the First XI, at a time when fellow pupils included cricketing great Bert Sutcliffe. Later, as a lawyer, Mahon had author Frank Sargeson as a client for many years.

After serving for two years in Italy with the Army’s 21st Infantry Battalion he graduated as a lawyer. Mahon set up practice in partnership with Paul von Sturmer in 1948. Their offices were upstairs in the building on the corner of Lake Rd and The Strand.

Later he moved to Anzac St in partnership with Michael Sumpter, who died in 2018. Their business name lived on until 2017, when Sumpter retired and the firm merged with Davenports Law.

Mahon was elected to the Takapuna Borough Council, aged 27. Six years later he was elected Mayor, but the vote was overturned on a recount three weeks later. He served as Deputy Mayor from 1950 to 1956.

He had terms as president of the Auckland RSA and the Auckland District Law Society and was later vice-president of the New Zealand Law Society. Mahon was also a member of the North Shore Drainage Board, North Shore Fire Board and Takapuna Grammar School’s board of governors.

With his good friend, David Beattie, he founded North Shore Squash Club. He was also president of the Takapuna Tennis Club.

After the Harbour Bridge opened in 1959, there was immense pressure for development on the North Shore, not only for houses but also for flats. Mahon, using his experience both as a councillor and a conveyancing lawyer, thought of a way which would enable more than one dwelling to be built on a single parcel of land but without need for a subdivision or reserve contributions – 999- year cross leases. With the assistance of then North Shore MP George Gair, legislation was passed enabling this form of ownership to be recognised in a separate freehold title now known as a “cross-lease title”. There are now around 216,000 cross-lease titles in New Zealand.

Mahon was a regular at the Takapuna Sunday market and had helped with its formation. He was honorary solicitor of the Takapuna Business Association when it advocated for a targeted rate for the purchase of the carpark, where the market is held.

His funeral followed his peaceful death in North Shore Hospital on 2 April. Mahon is survived by wife Jennifer and his children Justine, Anthony, David and Tim. He was also step-father to three and had 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

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