Susan McConachy: Civic Award 2021

Published on 01 December 2021

2021 Civic Award recipient Susan McConachy in Te Marae o Hine.

A lifelong educator, Susan McConachy has contributed to Palmy's diverse arts community in many ways since arriving in the city as a young teacher in the 1970s. 

In 1975, Susan was appointed head of department for the Freyberg School of Special Education. She also operated a private music studio and over the decades has taught hundreds of local musicians.

Joining the Institute of Registered Music Teachers in 1991, Susan went on to chair the organisation for 15 years.

From the late 80s, she served on the Palmerston North Community Arts Council (PNCAC) funding committee as a member and as chair.

The organisation helped nurture, mentor and maintain cultural and artistic programmes, training schemes and suburban development projects for people with disabilities, young people, unemployed, whānau, ethnic and community groups, while also supporting more traditional artistic endeavours.

This work helped establish a foundation for the city's present arts scene.

In partnership with PNCAC, the Palmerston North International Festival, the precursor to the hugely successful Festival of Cultures, was first celebrated in 1993.

Following the successful Save the Regent campaign and its purchase by the city council in 1992, Susan became a foundation member of the Regent Theatre Trust, an organisation she is still committed to.

She then spearheaded a successful $1.7 million community fundraising endeavour for theatre renovations that involved organising shows, concerts and sponsorships.

The Regent's extensive refit began in 1996, and in 1997 the trust commissioned her to raise $200,000 in an 18-month campaign for the theatre's Steinway grand piano, chosen by concert pianist Michael Houstoun.

The following year, Susan helped secure ENZSO – the NZ Symphony Orchestra performing arrangements of Split Enz songs with Kiwi pop vocalists – as part of the two-week-long 1998 gala opening celebrations for the rebranded Regent on Broadway.

For more than a decade, Susan also contributed to the Manawatū Performing Arts Competitions Society of New Zealand (MPACS) as a committee member, vice-president and president, with a focus on music and dance.

She joined the Friends of the Ballet board in support of Royal NZ Ballet performances in Palmerston North, while growing the city's relationship with the national company and further nurturing the appreciation of dance in the region.

An inclusive, long-serving and tireless arts advocate, mentor, organiser and manager, Susan continues to apply her extensive capabilities, knowledge and experience across the sector's broad spectrum.