NZ summer still special for trail-blazer

By Siobhan Leathley

Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas.   Photo / Supplied
Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas. Photo / Supplied

More than 20 years ago, Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas swapped the freezing, windy streets of Dunedin for London, and a string of high-profile roles and awards - including 2004 New Zealander of the Year in Britain - means she hasn't looked back since.

Dame Judith is a woman of many firsts: first to be elected provost of King's College, Cambridge; first to become the Royal Opera House chairwoman, and her role as chairwoman of the policy and resources committee meant she was effectively running the City of London Corporation.

Her services were recognised in 2002 when she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to the city.

She briefly lectured at the University of Otago after completing her law degree, before moving to England as a lecturer at London's King's College. During her time there, she founded and directed Europe's first joint degree, the Anglo French Law Degree.

In 1989 she entered private practice as an employment lawyer, rising to become special adviser to the chairman of the world's largest law firm, Clifford Chance.

She is a member of the World Class New Zealand network, which is a collection of New Zealand residents and expats committed to aiding the country's international competitiveness and economic growth, and always enjoys returning home to visit old friends and relatives.

What do you most look forward to about coming home for summer?

I look forward to seeing friends and family most of all. There is something about growing up in New Zealand that never leaves you and it is wonderful just picking up where we left off last time.

I also look forward to the blue sky, the bright sunlight, the wide open spaces, the bush and the sea.

Where will you spend your time in New Zealand this summer?

I will spend time in Auckland with friends and family then down to Central Otago and Dunedin where I grew up.

What books will you be reading this summer?

The new book written by my close school friend and classmate Juliet Marillier. She writes the most wonderful historical fantasies.

What's December like where you live?

December in London is cold but full of the most wonderful things to do and see. The theatre, opera and ballet are superb and there are lots of Christmas concerts in wonderful churches. The whole city is looking beautiful with the lights this year and the Olympic friendliness is still with us. It has been a year like no other.

I live just by Buckingham Palace, in the smallest square in London, which was built for Queen Victoria's courtiers when she moved into the palace.

One of the most interesting things I am doing at the moment is chairing the redevelopment of the Imperial War Museum, which will lead our celebrations in August 2014. The links with the Commonwealth are very important and the new World War I galleries will be fantastic.

What dish will you be cooking on the barbecue this summer?

In New Zealand it will be the best fish in the world.

- NZ Herald

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