In September of the year before his death, as Attorney-General and former Colonial Secretary, Sir Patrick Buckley introduced the "Unclassified Societies’ Registration Bill" to New Zealand’s Parliament at the request of the amateur athletic organisations in the colony (prompted by the New Zealand Rugby Union), with the objective of protecting clubs' funds and property. A key feature of the Bill was that no member of a sport club could gain a pecuniary advantage from its operations. The law came into effect in October 1895 and was lauded as an “admirable measure” by the 74 members of New Zealand's 12th Parliament.

(Sir Patrick Buckley pictured with his home, in Lower Hutt)

The genesis of the new law was a conference of athletic bodies, (the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association, the New Zealand Rowing Association, the New Zealand Cricket Council, the New Zealand Swimming Association, the New Zealand Cyclists' Alliance and the New Zealand Rugby Union) held in June 1895, which decided that the Government would be asked to introduce a new Bill to enable any club of amateurs formed to promote or compete in any form of athletic exercise or sport, to become incorporated and capable of holding property. At the time, it was said that amateur sport clubs nationally comprised 50,000 members, or around 7% of the total population.

The Bill gave amateur sport clubs á separate legal identity to their members and the protection of the broader legal framework governing society and community organisations in the 55-year-old colony. In particular, the law was seen to promote honesty among club members and ensure that a club’s affairs were managed in a manner that promoted participation governed by rules that members were obliged to abide by. The fact that by far and away the majority of sport clubs in New Zealand have incorporated status today, illustrates the importance of these imported colonial values embedded in the law by New Zealand’s Parliament, 128 years ago.

(The grave of Sir Patrick Buckley, in Wellington's Karori Cemetery)

Today, the memorial to Sir Patrick Buckley’s life in Wellington’s Karori cemetery is covered in ankle-deep grass and over-shadowed by dense vegetation. Having started his life in rural Cork, Sir Patrick ended his life as a Justice of New Zealand’s Supreme Court. Without his support and understanding of the legal framework to support amateur sport, based on the legal foundations created by the Crown, New Zealand’s sport community would not have thrived over the subsequent century. On his death, it was reported that Sir Patrick Alphonsus Buckley was, "a friend to truth, of soul sincere, in action faithful, and in honour clear."