Donna Buchanan from Women in Events NZ has a passion for people and rock’n roll. We kōrero about her journey, her experience and her ah-ha moments. 

‘I know it’s only rock’n roll but I like it.’

It’s a flaming shame the Rolling Stones put their names on these lines first. Otherwise Donna Buchanan would have claimed these words. I have no doubt. 

Rock’n roll is what makes Donna tick.  And she sure went through some lengths to claim her spot in the industry. 

Donna worked on a wide range of festivals including Auckland City Limits, Rhythm & Vines, T in the Park, Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Hell, the woman helped organise Glastonbury. But her absolute favourite by a mile is our very own ‘Big Day Out’. 

With high-profile festivals like this on her CV, Donna has some stories to tell. 

It started all out with her determined entry to the Events industry. 

For the love of ‘Big Day Out’

Donna had her eye set on Big Day Out from the very beginning. After a few rejections and fib-offs, she finally scored an interview. 3 hours later she was still waiting to be called in. John Leech took pity on her and ushered her into his office (‘Come on then!’).  

Many stuffed envelopes, and other grunt work later, Donna had everything she ever wanted: a job in the festival event industry. 

Anybody who works in the industry will know what an achievement that really is. Event jobs outside the business event sphere are few and far in between. They don’t get advertised on Seek. It’s who you know…

As an event manager, Donna loves how she can be creative and how the job makes her think on your feet. But most of all, she’s passionate about getting the best out in people and bringing them together. 

Events Networking for Women in Aotearoa

It’s exactly this love for working with people and bringing them together that kick-started her brain baby ‘Women in Events NZ’. 

The trigger was a scan of the room during ‘Events in the Future’. Donna realised that 80% of people in the room were women. People who she knew really appreciated each other’s support, but hardly ever managed to go beyond the ‘We need to catch up some day’. 

Nothing would have come from it, if it hadn’t been for ‘Pre-FOMO’ (Donna’s words, not mine). Despite being run off her feet, she knew she would have been gutted if somebody would get in there before her. Women in Events NZ was born. 

First in Auckland, then in Wellington. Christchurch and any of the other areas in New Zealand are also in her line of sight.  A Chat Series and World domination is next. 

The idea is simple: bringing women together. Titles are left at the door. The focus is to decompress and just catch up. Every month there’s a different venue. 

It’s not about making money. ‘Some things are more important than earning a buck. It’s about giving back to the community.’ I know; the woman is a saint. 

But that’s not where it stops. 

Beyond Events Networking: The Events Mentoring Program

These days (You know, viruses and all that), freelance work has dried up a bit and her toddler is getting the bulk of the attention. But Donna still gets itchy feet. 

In 2017, her passion for people saw her starting a mentor program for people who want to find their niche in the Events industry. The program runs over 6 months every year, with a 1 hour per month commitment.  I can testify as a mentor, it’s a highly rewarding experience. 

Donna’s Oh-Ah-Ha moment

Donna is a big fan of the vibe in the events industry. The creativity, the resilience … and its people when they come together. 

‘I am blown away, for instance, by how the Auckland Diwali this year couldn’t proceed on its usual big scale at Aotea Square. Out of necessity, the festival was just broken down and taken back to the communities where it had its roots in the first place.  I was blown away by the creativity of that. 

Something similar is happening with our big summer festivals. We normally have ‘Homegrown’ as our festival supporting local acts, but this year, all the festivals support our amazing local talent. ‘

In the middle of a down moment during lock-down, I asked myself if I should carry on with what I’m doing while I was organising a free networking event at Cocoon House, a venue for 50 people.  110 signed up. It was the message I needed to keep going.  

Contact Donna to Get Cracking

Which is probably the right moment to leave you with the message that anybody who is interested in making their own little contribution to our events industry should get hold of Donna. 

It’s our dream to grow our Events Mentoring Program.  So if you can spare an hour a month, give a yell!

The same obviously goes for people who want to be mentored. 

We like to showcase suppliers. Catering, event set-up, flower walls, selfie booths, and balloon garlands; we need to hear from you! 

And last but not least, we love receiving give-aways (from a dinner voucher to a bra-fitting; it’s all welcome). 




Donna Buchanan, Women in Events New Zealand Managing Director has had a career in events spanning more than 20 years throughout New Zealand and the United Kingdom. She has worked on a wide range of festivals including Auckland City Limits, Big Day Out, Rhythm & Vines, T in The Park, Glastonbury, Bestival, Camp Bestival, Big Beach Boutique, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Creamfields. For eight years Donna was with Auckland Live as the Aotea Square Account Manager. She launched Women in Events New Zealand, a free monthly networking event, in October 2015.

Donna’s inspiration to start Women in Events NZ was, she felt sometimes the only time she saw these amazing women was when we would work together at the yearly events and she felt they needed a reason to meet throughout the year to keep up and strengthen these connections. Donna loves to bring together likeminded women from the New Zealand events industry for networking and mentoring opportunities in a relaxed neutral environment and to give people the chance to catch up with their peers. It’s also a chance to showcase local venues and events, and to be able to offer backstage tours and insights to these spaces is always a bonus.