Historian – Jan Suckling

The Zonta Club of Christchurch-Canterbury Inc. was chartered on 24.11.1970, organised by Dorothy Thompson, official Zonta International club organiser, and along with the Dunedin Club, was sponsored by the Zonta Club of Buffalo, New York, (the first Zonta Club which chartered in 1917).

The Second Biennial Conference of District 16 (NZ) was held in Christchurch in 1993, and again in 2001.


Jeanne Edgar was a Charter Member of the club and President in 1974/5. She was District Governor from 1980-82. In 1981, she held the 4th District Conference in Christchurch, also attended by Dorothy Thompson. In 1984, Jeanne served on the Planning Committee for the 47th Convention in Sydney as well as on other International Committees, including International Nominating Committee for Zone Three and the International Relations Committee. In 1985 Jeanne was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for service to the Community

Jean McGregor, along with Jeanne Edgar, was instrumental in getting Christchurch’s Court Theatre started in the early seventies. The theatre is still going strong today.

Margaret Smith was the first woman anesthetist in New Zealand. Margaret died in 2007 in her 101st year.

Iris Orchard’s service to the community and to sporting organisations in Canterbury was voluntary, dedicated, and continuous for more than sixty years. Iris served as inaugural Treasurer and has been on every committee over the years until retiring in 2007. She has also represented the Club at International level.

A qualified accountant, she was admitted to the New Zealand Society of Accountants in 1941, graduating BCom (the only woman) in 1942. Iris spent 47 years in the service of one practice, Nicholls North & Nicholls (now Grant Thornton), being admitted to full Partnership in 1958. In August 2001 she received a certificate recognising 60 years’ membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand. Iris was heavily involved both in women’s hockey and cricket in Canterbury, and served for a decade on the NZ Women’s Cricket Council going on to be awarded Life Membership of the Canterbury Cricket Association.

Iris has Life Membership of the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women in recognition of her service to that organisation, and honorary membership of the New Zealand Antarctic Society. She was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in September 2004.


Adrienne, Lady Stewart ONZM QSM LLD(Hon) FInst FNZIM
Adrienne is a Past President and a member of the Zonta Club of Christchurch since 1974.
Married to Sir Robertson Stewart CBE JSM (Hon Dr. Eng) she was involved in industry and commerce for forty years. Adrienne is and has been a director, board member and patron of numerous companies, banks, organisations and charities for many years.

Awards include: 

The Queens Service Medal in June 1995 for services to the community.
Officer NZ Order of Merit Queens Birthday Honours 2006 – ONZM
Zonta International District 16 – Woman of the Biennium 2009-2011
Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Canterbury 14 December 2011.
Becoming Dame Adrienne Stewart in the New Year’s Honours List 2015


Adrienne, Lady Stewart, Pamela Barnard, Chris Blacklock, Catherine Boyd, Kathy Clarke, Jeannie Ching, Ngaio Donnell, Jacqui Hanifin, Heather Hardie, Doreen Hawkins, Clare Martin, Maureen Masters, Ann North, Joy Stuthridge, Alison Woods

Z Club

We have one Z Club which was formed with the help of Janet Messervy in March 1993 at the Avonside Girls’ High School. This has been a very successful Z Club ever since. For many years the Z Club had a long association with Cholmondeley Children’s Home and it was this opportunity for service that then enthused many to join Z Club and retain it as their charity of choice for service. The experiences and interaction with the children at Cholmondeley Children’s Home by the Z Club members have been positive and significant, changing many girls’ career options and attitude to life.

In 2011 during the devastating earthquakes, the main building of Avonside School was extensively damaged and has been demolished. The girls had to share all year with another school across the city, so Z Club was on hold throughout the year. However, the school is now fully up and running and the Z Club restarted again in March 2012 with a record 28 members, all of whom are keen to get involved with fundraising and service for their chosen charity, Ronald McDonald House.

Working with young women

Our chosen charity for 2005 was Kimihia – based at Linwood College. This was an on campus class with attached crèche for teen mothers to enable them to continue with their education and look after their babies at the same time. We raised money for furniture, toys and equipment and it was officially opened at the beginning of 2006 by the Prime Minister, Hon. Helen Clarke.

Doreen Hawkins was very involved in this project and remembers it as one of our most rewarding achievements, especially as both teachers and girls were so keen to move forward with their educational and personal goals.

The club has also been involved over the years with Holly House, which takes in pregnant teenage girls, helping them through their pregnancies and assisting with their babies.

Assisting Women in Business

Each year the Club invites women to apply for our Women in Business Award, which is a sum of $5,000, raised these days through fundraising efforts, and given to the winning recipient to advance her business in some way. The original funding came from the Canterbury Women’s Employment Trust, which was wound up in the early 1990s. A lump sum also came from Catalyst Inc. when this organization also wound up, and their Board asked that the funds go to a project in support of women, so the two lots of funding were amalgamated.

In 1998, the Status of Women committee, led by Jeanne Edgar, initiated the idea for the Women in Business Award and the club has been committed to continuing it since. Originally, two awards of $3,500 were given each year, until 2004 when the club agreed to give one each year of $5,000. A variety of businesses are represented by our winners, from the fashion industry to photography, candle making, swim school, dance class, Pilates, and a food manufacturer.

Zonta International Canterbury Tertiary Scholarship Trust

The Trust was formed in 1990 and the scholarships established by the combined Zonta Clubs of Canterbury to assist women completing a tertiary course of study. Preference may be given to a mature student in need of financial assistance to complete a defined course of study at any level. The initial funds were raised by holding two sold out debates in the Christchurch Town Hall. Subsequently, each Christchurch Club donates $25.00 per member annually to keep the fund topped up.


Organisations in the Christchurch area the Club has assisted by fundraising and service are:

  • Women’s Refuge
  • Holly House – for teenage mothers
  • Kimihia – for teenage mothers still at school – 2005
  • Teen Schools
  • Cholmondely House & School
  • Styx River Re-vegetation Project 1994-1999, Christchurch
  • Women’s Centre
  • Adult Reading Assistance Scheme
  • Endometriosis Foundation
  • Breast Cancer Foundation
  • Ronald McDonald House
  • Heart Foundation
  • Salvation Army
  • Look Good, Feel Better
  • Dress for Success
  • Presbyterian Support Services

Various Fundraising Events held by the Club:

  • Balls, Dinners and Auctions
  • Cabaret Evenings
  • Pub quizzes
  • Garage sales
  • Race days
  • Garden parties
  • Vanishing Tea Parties
  • Fashion & Style events
  • Wine tastings
  • Movie nights/afternoons
2012-2014 BIENNIUM


2012  Chryssie Russell
2013  Kathy Clarke
2014  Glenda Murphy

Supporting our District Project, NZ Gynecological Cancer Foundation, we donated in February 2014, from our various raffle proceeds, the amount of $1000.

Club Charities:

2012  We supported the Christchurch Women’s Centre by fundraising and service. The Centre had been operating from temporary premises since the February 2011 earthquake, and over one weekend, many of our members and partners helped them to move into permanent premises close to the city. Owing to our fundraising efforts, we were able to present them with a cheque in December 2012, for $5820.41.
2013  We supported Women’s Refuge – now called Aviva. Early in the year, members of the Service Committee decorated the children’s room at the Refuge, with new curtains and cushions and a local artist, Ira Mitchell painted colourful murals on all the walls. Many of our club members volunteered to collect for Aviva in their annual street appeal. Our fundraising throughout the year enabled us to present Aviva with a total of $5692.20.
2014  Our charity this year is Birthright.

Woman in Business Award – 2013

This is our Club’s prestigious point of difference and has been offered to Canterbury business women for nearly 20 years. The $5000 award money is raised each year through ticket sales of the annual Sumner Players Cabaret. The 2013 Award was launched at the end of 2012 at an event at the Westpac Centre – with celebrity chef Jax Hamilton providing an entertaining evening of cooking demonstrations followed by an account of her life before and after Masterchef.

A record number of high calibre applications for the award were received, making the judging extremely difficult. However, a winner was chosen and at a glittering event at the Westpac Hub events centre on 26 March 2013 a cheque for $5000 was presented to Cate Grace of Leap2it Fitness and Motivation. We were fortunate that our District Governor Maureen Heine flew down to Christchurch especially to attend.

Z Club

Our Z Club at Avonside Girls’ High School goes from strength to strength with record numbers of girls for both years – reaching 60 in 2013. The girls held various fundraising events throughout both years enabling them to give a cheque to Ronald McDonald House for $1100 and then raising $2366 for the Cholmondely Children’s home in Christchurch. This second achievement appeared in the November 2013 International Z Letter, which included a photo of Z Club President Zoe Stockwell presenting a cheque to Cholmondely’s representative at a school assembly.

Photos from various service and fundraising projects from 2013 and 2014

2014 International Convention in Orlando

Two members attended from the club – Doreen Hawkins and Jan Suckling. They both reported on how well organized the event was and how great it was to have a large contingent from New Zealand there, especially as it was Lynn McKenzie’s Convention. Jan sent a daily blog to the club detailing the activities of the business sessions and social events.

Jan Suckling with Kathy Bigwood and Marilyn Waring; Doreen Hawkins & Jan Suckling with NZ Governor Maureen Heine; Lynn McKenzie up on the big screen; Doreen & Jan at the finish of the 5km walk

Iris Orchard
We lost one of our few remaining charter members this biennium. Iris was a committed Zontian from the start and a tireless worker on behalf of our Club and many community and sports organisations. She was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in September 2004.

2014-2016 BIENNIUM


2015 – Melissa Benge
During 2014, our fundraising efforts went towards Birthright, an organization providing support and assistance to single parents. We were able to present Birthright with a cheque at the end of the year, for $6780.00 which went towards developing new programs.
Our District Project for the biennium is the Sophie Elliot Foundation.
Our own Club charity for sponsorship during 2015 is the YWCA – Emergency accommodation unit in Hereford Street. Service is being provided by collecting household equipment and keeping the gardens tidy.

Women in Business Award
After many years of offering a cash award, members have voted to support local businesswomen by celebrating their success in an annual event, and invite well known and successful business people to speak. The 2015 event will take place in the Transitional Cathedral in June.

There are a number of events in the pipeline, including a Long Lunch to be held on a Sunday in June at Rangi Ruru School. A similar event was held last year and was very popular with 100 people attending.

Z Club
The Club continues to go from strength to strength, with 72 girls joining in 2015. They are currently supporting All Star Kids Club – a program run at Aranui High during school holidays for children with disabilities. High school pupils volunteer their time to help with this program, and the Z Club girls are providing service and fundraising this year. They are also planning on providing three evening dinners during the year at Ronald McDonald House, as they have become somewhat a fixture on their calendar now. Z Club has also applied for the Emma L Conlon Service Award for 2015.


Adrienne was 19 when she started at the then small manufacturing company Plastics Die-casting (PDL) as personal assistant to Sir Robertson Stewart – who would later become her husband. Under Lady Adrienne and Sir Robertson Stewart, PDL Industries became one of the country’s largest and best-known manufacturers and exporters, with a strong presence in Malaysia and across the Pacific. The Stewarts sold PDL Industries in 2001 to French firm Schneider Electric. But her involvement in the Christchurch business world stretched much further than PDL.

She was New Zealand’s first female public company director, and the first woman on the board of the Institute of Management. As chairwoman of the New Zealand Institute of Directors, she took the organisation from “dormant” with a membership of 10, to a thriving 400-strong membership within a few years. Today, the institute has a membership of more than 800. In 1974, during her time with PDL, Adrienne joined Zonta and has been a strong, supportive member ever since, and being chosen as the Woman of the Biennium 2009-2011.

Adrienne has continued to use her business experience long into her retirement, turning her skills to arts patronage and philanthropy. She draws on her extensive networks and resources, taking a fairly pragmatic approach to supporting and funding the arts. She was named Patron of the Year by the Arts Foundation in 2009, and takes her patronage seriously, preferring to be an active participant rather than figurehead. The Arts Foundation described her approach as “intensely personal, and focused on ensuring that an individual is able to benefit from an opportunity or career development at the time it is happening”. In 2011, Adrienne was made an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Canterbury, in recognition of “her outstanding contribution to the university as an arts adviser, philanthropist and patron of the arts”. As in business, much of her work is in mentoring and seeking potential among young people, then supporting those she thinks have the ability to succeed and has recently provided four $10,000 scholarships to young people in the arts.

Adrienne was inducted into The NZ Business Hall of Fame on August 7 2014 at The Langham, Auckland. As one of her guests, she invited the current President of our Club’s Z Club to attend. Adrienne’s most recent accolade and probably the most prestigious, was receiving her Damehood in the 2015 New Year’s Honours.

Long serving member of Zonta
Zonta International District 16 – Woman of the Biennium 2009-2011
Governing patron of the Arts and Industry Trust
Chair of the CSO Foundation
Governing Patron of the SCAPE Public Art Trust
Arts Foundation Patron of the Year
Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Canterbury University
Distinguished Fellow of the NZ Institute of Directors
Fellow of the NZ Institute of Management
Patron of the Court Theatre Supporters
Queen’s Service Medal for the NZ Order of Merit, 2006
Became a Dame in the 2015 New Year’s Honours List

Compiled by Historian:  Jan Suckling