A Brief History of the Zonta Club of: Nelson

Pat Robins (Marlborough) began organising the new Zonta Club of Nelson Area in 1977, and it was eventually chartered on January 21st 1978. Pat was the first woman to be ordained as a clergyman in the Nelson Anglican Diocese. At its charter dinner at the Victory Room in the Trafalgar Centre, Charter President Margaret Sinclair was presented with the charter and gavel by District Governor Beverley Bennett. Dorothy Matthews was elected as Vice President while Betty Don became Foundation Treasurer. The ‘glittering affair’ was also attended by local dignitaries, including the Mayor of Nelson, Roy A McLennan and the Bishop of Nelson, as well as by the presidents of other service clubs. Initially, joint meetings were held with the Marlborough club.

Early projects included raising funds for the IHC and for the Zonta International project in Colombia. As well, Nelson Zontians sponsored the establishment of the Nelson Rheumatism and Arthritis Society and organised a Zonta Area Four Workshop in November 1980. Members also planted trees to beautify their district, although these were destroyed by fire in February 1981. Nelson Zontians participated in inter-club occasions with Marlborough, Wellington, Christchurch and Timaru Zontians, including a memorable weekend trip to Lake Rotoiti. Nelson Zontian, Elsie Neal, was a member of Leneen Forde’s District finance committee. During Valerie Webster’s governorship, Nelson Club President, Betty Don, attended the New Zealand National Conference on Peace and Personal Power where Sonja Davies gave an inspiring address. In general, the Zonta Club of Nelson gained great publicity through its community involvement, once preparing a ‘Storyland Fantasia’ street banner to celebrate Richmond’s centenary as a borough. In 1984, Nelson Zontians helped to run the craft store at the Sydney Convention along with Hutt Valley and Hamilton Zontians. Later projects included planting cherry trees in front of the Nelson Aged Care Rooms and making candy-floss for the Telethon. Glen Price, Christchurch South, visited and gave a talk. Friendship links were also established with the Zonta Clubs of Armidale and Fleurieu Peninsula.

Area Three Director Eleanor Stewart, ran parallel workshops in Nelson and later in Timaru. Board training days were also held in Nelson by Eleanor Stewart and Jennifer Familton. Planning for the 1995 District XVI Conference in Nelson was well underway but the shrinkage of Nelson club numbers as well as the disbanding of the Marlborough Area Club meant that Nelson was unable to continue its hosting offer for the Conference. This was subsequently taken up by the Zonta Club of Dunedin-Otago. During Mary Kincaid’s biennium, membership numbers across the District were dropping, reflecting a worldwide trend. In the Nelson Club, it was difficult to hold on to new members, and it was felt that winding the club up might be the best solution. There were frequent difficulties in forming a board but some keen members stayed on to participate in various service projects. At the 1999 Conference, Area Three Director Pam McCormick reported that Nelson numbers had risen from 13 to 18, an increase of 38%. By 2005, the Zonta Club of Nelson was in the process of ‘regenerating’. Governor Maxelyn Tudman expressed her gratitude to the Nelson members who had stayed on to assist with the club’s reformation, likening them to ‘trees left standing to regenerate the forest around them’. By the time of the 2005 District Conference, the Zonta Club of Nelson had twelve newly signed up members, due to the hard work of Eleanor Stewart, Carolyn Marks and Lynette Grave. In the long run however, even these commendable efforts were unable to stem the decline of the club which became inactive in late 2007 and eventually disbanded at the end of May 2008.

Compiled by Historian:  Jennifer Loughton, District Historian