District 16’s Area 1 Zonta club, called the Zonta Club of Hatea‐Whangarei ,came into being in 1993 because the existing Zonta Club of Whangarei had become so large. It had 60 members, and a group of an additional thirty five women had indicated they wished to join the organisation. They were described as, young , vibrant and enthusiastic. They came from a wide range of occupations and were keen to give service to the community. Anne Richards was the inugural President of our club chartered on 3rd August 1993. She was a member of the established club and was willing to shoulder the responsibility of leading this newly formed club, Charter number 1427.
At our Charter Dinner on the 4th of September 1993 we hosted some important guests. They included District Governor Joan ‐ Mary Longcroft, (Past District Governor) and inspirational Guest Speaker, Cherry Raymond, Mary Kincaid (District Governor elect) Lorna McIntosh (Area 1 Director,) John Banks (our local M.P.) and Whangarei Deputy Mayor Graeme Broughton. Ultimately, our Zonta Club chartered with 21 active and committed members.
Initially, we experimented with fundraising projects like the Great New Zealand Picnic and had considerable success for two years. However collecting donated books for resale to raise funds for numerous organisations seeking support became the major fundraising venture for our club from 1995. At the time of our first book sale membership had risen to 24. After that some of the members sought sponsorship from the local business community to develop a Whangarei Women’s Business and Trade Directory.
In 1996 Zonta Hatea Whangarei organised a Women in Business Award described by the local newspaper as looking’ set to become the Oscar of the North’.
Movie Champagne Breakfasts for the Miriam Centre, Creative Christmas Schemes and Themes to raise funds for the Women’s Refuge and a sausage sizzle to help a young school girl get to Brisbane Australia to sing with the New Zealand Choir all took place along with book sorting in 1997.
During that year the 4th Biennial District 16 Conference was held in Forum North Whangarei and both clubs worked together to ensure it was a successful and informative programme.
In 1998 Awards were created for women who contributed significantly to their community. All the while members were engaged in the ongoing process of collecting and sorting books for the Great New Zealand Book sale which continued to grow like Topsy!,
This activity certainly filled the need of members for fellowship but in almost all years to date, Christmas parties involving partners, dinners, shows and combined excursions with members of the Whangarei club to Area One meetings and International Women’s Day breakfasts have been opportunities for additional support.
In 1999 members refined their acknowledgement of those dedicated community-‐based women identifying them with certificates, as “Unsung Heroines” of the Community and their contribution was acknowledged in the local paper. Scholarships and The Zonta Great New Zealand Book Sale assumed greater prominence in the local community.
Hatea was the first Zonta Club in New Zealand to produce breast cushions for mastectomy patients. Over the past six years Anne Richards and her small team of helpers have made 600 breast cushions
for women recovering from breast cancer. They are distributed to Hospitals and other organisations to pass on at no cost to the patient. Financing this project is sustained by funds raised through the book sale and donations.
Since 2000 the book sale has grown so much it fills the exhibition hall in Forum North and since 2004 the members of Whangarei Zonta Club provided additional support. In the last six years they have participated in the collection , sorting and sale of the books. The venture takes hundreds of people hours but the results financially enabled us to make significant improvements to the lives and experiences of Women and Children both here and overseas. Unsold books have been transported to the Soloman Islands and more recently the small island schools of Fiji that have very few books at all due to economic deprivation and severe weather conditions.
Our main beneficiaries have been He Mataariki the school for Teen Mums, Te Puna O Te Aroha Maori Women’s Refuge (on going) , Endometriosis and winners of Women’s tertiary scholarships, Young Women in Public Affair scholarships, Child Abuse prevention, Speld and Special Educational Learning Disorders to assist young girls, Adult Literacy Whangarei, the Whangarei Rape Crisis, Plunket and Hospice. More recently we supported the attendance of a senior hospice nurse to an international conference. We jointly subsidise the publication of free booklets titled, “Choices For Women”, in an attempt to assist them in identifying the positive and negative signs within a relationship. These are freely available throughout Northland.
We subsidise those members enrolled to attend International and National Zonta Conferences who are charged to act on our behalf, and from time to time respond to expressions of need for financial assistance to enable young girls and women to achieve a particular objective that will enhance their ability to advance their own status or that of women locally and abroad.
Since chartering, Anne has attended two Conventions, one other member and myself have also attended an International Convention. Timing and location and proximity to family has contributed to our ability to take advantage of these opportunities. They are so stimulating and for the first time one can grasp the fantastic ability and responsibility Zonta has within its reach, to bring about advancing the status of women on the local and international scene.
However, times are changing. The rate of change is exponential and the strategies, systems and practices of our organisation are facing very real challenges. Changes to the workplace that evolved within a framework of fifty years, were replicated within the next twenty years and at the cusp of our club being chartered, technology and the ramifications of this rapidly reducing timeframe and its impact upon family and work could not be foreseen. While we acknowledge that this is a world-‐ wide phenomena and that Zonta International is attempting to find solutions, its impact presents significant challenges in attracting and sustaining membership to our club.
We have held an information stall over two days at the annual A and P show but while it may have raised some Community awareness of our activities, and some left their names for follow-‐up we only succeeded in attracting two new members. This gain however, has been lost through two of our youngest members seeking leave for a year while they try to restore balance in their work and family commitments. We maintain a less formal, more flexible procedure to support the varying needs of our current membership in the meantime while members seek possible solutions through an action research process.
Compiled by Historian: Effie Lints