Dianne (Di) Buchan QSM is best known in Ōtaki for her work to save the historic rotunda at the old children’s health camp, and her book about the camp called Sun, Sea and Sustenance.
She founded and chairs the Friends of the Ōtaki Rotunda, and for seven years was a trustee of the Ōtaki Museum. Until recently she wrote a regular historical column for Ōtaki Today. She is also a trustee of Energise Ōtaki.
This community work was recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours, but the QSM was also for her environmental work, much of which began well before her move to Ōtaki in 2010.
For six years Di served as vice-president of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand and now co-chairs the working group established to integrate indigenous environmental knowledge into mainstream environmental practice. She also worked for a year in Geneva with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, co-editing a book on community involvement in conservation which has been translated into French and Spanish. In 2013 she established the DB Environmental Trust to help landowners and community groups to adopt more environmentally sustainable practices.
Although born and raised in Central Otago, Di first made her mark at the other end of the country. Aged 25, she became the youngest town clerk in New Zealand, at Hikurangi in Northland. When she stood for election as a Hikurangi councillor she was the highest polling candidate.
While working in the planning department of the Ministry of Works she was voted in as the inaugural president of the Whangārei branch of the Women’s Electoral Lobby, and helped to establish the first women’s refuge and women’s centre in Whangārei. The branch also organised workshops and seminars to address issues of particular concern to women.
Moving to Wellington to take up a position in the Ministry of Works head office and then the State Services Commission, she initiated the Riddiford Street Project, which led to revitalisation of the Newtown shopping centre and the annual Newtown Festival.
In 1989 she became a consultant in social impact assessment working on projects all over the country and the Pacific, and running training courses in this relatively new discipline.
During this time, Di served for 10 years on the Wellington Civic Trust, seven years as chair. The trust ran seminars and award ceremonies to celebrate the new developments in the city, particularly around the new waterfront that was to become an integral part of Wellington’s revitalisation as a vibrant capital city.
After losing her husband, Michael Moriarty, in 2014, Di immersed herself in writing Sun, Sea and Sustenance. The stories that emerged inspired her interest in the history of Ōtaki, and especially the children’s health camp.
When the camp closed in 2018, Di was concerned about the historic rotunda on the site. She established the Friends of the Ōtaki Rotunda, which is raising funds to restore the old building.
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