A Brief History of the Zonta Club of: Christchurch Canterbury

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 Read more

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: Read more

Friends of Zonta
We have a very active group of retired members, some of whom are now in their nineties, who get together four times a year to socialize and stay in touch with the Club’s activities. They receive the Club newsletter by email, and whenever they can, they attend the Club’s functions. All current members and especially the President, are always very welcome at their gatherings throughout the year.

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.Read more

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. Read more

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
Read more

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.

The three finalists with Melissa Haberfield 

Cate Grace receiving her Award from President Kathy Clarke 

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.

Area Director Wendy Almond inducting the 2015 Board

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.
Photos taken during the Easter holidays of the All Star Kids program

list-of-honoursAdrienne 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. Read more


Compiled by Historian:  Jan Suckling