Sam Judd

Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Farewell to a conservation hero

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Diana, Lady Isaac. Photo / The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust
Diana, Lady Isaac. Photo / The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust

It is sad to see the passing of Diana, Lady Isaac, but her legacy will remain to protect the environment for generations.

Few can question her dedication to hard work - with a career that spans over 60 years as a director for Isaac Construction - she along with husband Sir Neil Isaac (who passed away in 1987) amassed an empire that will benefit the people of Canterbury and New Zealand forever.

Her award-winning Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust opened a 1,200-hectare conservation park on the fringe of Christchurch City, which is designed to achieve conservation outcomes and provide a recreational area.

There are not many people out there who would gift away such a huge chunk of prime land (near the airport and the city) in order to run breeding programs for endangered species and make people happy.

Like many of our successful conservationists, Lady Isaac's life was dominated by a very hard work ethic. Both before and after her husband's death in 1987, she worked as a director of Isaac Construction, but certainly not as a bookkeeper - she mucked in with the men and earned their respect - playing a key role in steering the company towards restoration of the areas that they quarried to build the Airport runway and Memorial Avenue.

A strong contingent from the construction firm, the Department of Conservation, the Arts world and Christchurch City officials attended Lady Isaac's packed funeral last week, which is testament to the respect she garnered over her 60 years of work and generosity to the people of Christchurch.

In addition to the conservation projects, her trust has been dishing out a huge level of funding to environmental projects, university scholarships and the arts.

Outside the Christchurch Arts centre, flanked by streets of half-demolished stone houses, a bronze bust of Lady Isaac rises proudly.

This humble environmental champion never sought any such acknowledgement; her work and achievements made her happy. I take my hat off to her: despite the fact that she has no children; the fruits of her labour will be there for generations of other people to enjoy.

Her story, which will continue to be told through the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust, is a great example for people who have profited from the resources of the land, on how to give back to the environment.

One of the cornerstones of how she lived her life was to leave the world a better place. If we had more people who thought along the same lines as Lady Isaac New Zealand would be a much better place.

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