Diana, Lady Isaac, was a conservationist and philanthropist who supported a wide range of Canterbury projects. Her work has been acknowledged with the award of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit and she was nominated for the inaugural Senior New Zealander of the Year.
England to India to Christchurch
Lady Isaac was born in England. She met her husband, Sir Neil Isaac, in India during World War II. Married in Delhi in 1946, they established a construction company in India and later moved to Christchurch, establishing Isaac Construction in 1950.
Their company began to build the highways and earthworks of Canterbury. Isaac Construction now employs 150 people at its Harewood depot. Neil Isaac was knighted in 1986 and sadly passed away the following year.
The Isaacs settled on a 1000-hectare property 6km from Christchurch, restored the quarry and over time developed it into a wildlife haven. Today Peacock Springs has become a conservation park set up to study and breed endangered indigenous plants, birds, fish and reptiles.
Contributions to Canterbury
Lady Isaac’s contributions to Canterbury included scholarships at Lincoln and Canterbury universities, sponsoring the Isaac Theatre Royal, supporting the Christchurch Art Gallery and setting up the Isaac Centre for Nature Conservation. She was awarded the ONZM in 2009. She died at home on 23 November 2012.
Twelve Local Heroes
Diana, Lady Isaac is one of the Canterbury Heroes - a set of twelve bronze busts of important local figures.
Diana Isaac’s plaque reads:
"Quarrying and construction company co-founder, dedicated conservator of native birds, preserver of historic buildings, philanthropic benefactor to Christchurch"
- Information about Lady Diana Isaac from the Twelve Local Heroes trail at the University of Canterbury
- Peacock Springs, Envirohistory New Zealand.
- Out of India Q&M, Vol. 6, No. 1, February-March 2009.
- Obituary by Mike Crean in The Press, p. A4, 26 November, 2012.