RWNZ National Board


Rural Women New Zealand is an Incorporated Society and is registered with the Charities Commission. The elected National Board consists of the National President, National Finance Chair and four Board members. Its role as the governance body of the organisation is to establish and monitor the long-term direction of the organisation. The Chief Executive Officer is responsible for managing the day to day affairs of the organisation, the achievement of board-approved strategic goals, annual plans and objectives.


Fiona Gower – National President

Fiona Gower has been a dedicated Member of our National Council since 2013 and was elected RWNZ National President in 2016. Fiona is a graduate of the Agri-Women’s Development Trust Escalator programme, and holds a diploma from Lincoln University in Wool Technology. She was also a Kellogg Rural Leadership Scholar in 2009. Outside of RWNZ, Fiona is the Secretary of the Onewhero Swimming Club, a member of the Port Waikato BeachCare committee and a member of the Waikato Conservation Board. Most recently, Fiona was elected Chair of the New Zealand Landcare Trust. In this new role, Fiona will focus on motivating communities to work collaboratively towards environmental awareness and sustainability.

In 2018, Fiona represented the Pacific Women’s Watch New Zealand delegation at the 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which focused on the challenges and opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

In addition to all of Fiona’s valuable work in the rural and environmental sectors, she is also a mother of two school-aged children and a casual worker on her family’s farm at Port Waikato.



Penny Mudford – National Chair 

Penny Mudford is an independent director and arbitrator. She is a Fellow of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand, a Chartered Member of the Institute of Directors, and a member of the New Zealand Global Women and Arbitral Women International. Penny has held leadership roles in various sectors and is a supporter of women’s leadership. Penny has held director positions on a number of boards in both the public and private sectors. She has written and presented papers in New Zealand and Australia on specialist topics and is author of the chapter Rural Arbitrations in Green and Hunt’s Arbitration Law and Practice and the chapter Dispute Resolution in Retirement Villages for the book Elder Law in New Zealand, both published by Thompson Reuters. Penny is a former chief Executive of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute and of the Institute of Financial Advisors.

From 1981 to 2001, Penny was a working dairy farmer, raised a family on a rural property in Manawatu and participated on dairy industry committees and rural organisations. During this time, she held positions with Manawatu-Rangitikei Federated Farmers and elected Provincial President in 1999. Penny was a supplier representative for Tui Milk Products and Kiwi Cooperative Dairies prior to the establishment of Fonterra in 2001. Penny completed the Kellogg Rural Leaders Programme in 1995.



Jenny McDonald – National Finance Chair 

Jenny’s roots are firmly woven throughout much of rural New Zealand. Born into a dairying family in the Wairarapa, she was raised in Horowhenua and spent her formative years in the Bay of Plenty and Taranaki. She and her husband moved south in the mid-90s, to pursue farming opportunities in Mid Canterbury where they still live today.

Jenny is a member of the Rural Women New Zealand Winchmore Branch. A chartered accountant, Jenny has extensive experience in both the corporate and agribusiness sectors spanning over 30 years. Having held senior management positions, together with community volunteer roles to board level, she also comes equipped with excellent  organisational and communication skills. As a graduate of the Kelloggs Rural Leadership Programme and AWDT’s Escalator Programme she has grown her leadership skills, gained greater insights into the roles and responsibilities of governance and extended her networks.




Zelda de Villiers – Board Member, North Island 

Zelda holds a Diploma Animal Nursing and an Honours degree in Agricultural Economics. She grew up on a beef and lamb farm in South Africa and has worked for 27 years in agricultural industry. This includes ten years in Rural Banking and Finance, three years in developing rural communities in Africa (USAID and Development Bank of Southern Africa), ten years at DeLaval (global leader in milking equipment) in Sweden and New Zealand and most recently, four years as the CEO of Dairy Women’s Network (DWN).

As the CEO of the DWN, Zelda has worked with RWNZ on shared interests to ensure that the voices of rural women are heard. She is a member of the Rural Women New Zealand Kaipara Branch.

Zelda has been actively involved in her local communities in South Africa and New Zealand, particularly as a mentor and coach. She has extensive experience in governance as a Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, Trustee (Waikato Women’s Refuge) and member of the Institute of Directors.




Gill Naylor  – Board member, South Island 

Gill is a born and bred Southlander who has farmed with her husband, Dave, for over 35 years in Becks, Central Otago.Gill brings a wealth of experience to the National Board having been actively involved in her community and as a member and office holder of Rural Women New Zealand over many years.

Gill has been Secretary, Vice President and President of her branch, Cambrian St Bathans; Vice President and President of Central Otago Provincial; a member of the Region One Area Committee (of which she is currently Chair) and previously as a Regional Management Team Member. She is a current member of the Scotlands Te Kiteroa Community Fund Committee. Her work has included appointments as a Trustee and Vice Chair of Life Education Trust Heartland Otago Southland, Central Otago A & P Society Home Industries Committee member and CODC Tourism Strategy Working Party member. Gill’s capacity for innovative thinking while being mindful of the effects of decision making has on others has enabled her to make valuable contributions to her rural community including collaboration with internal and external stakeholders.As a result, Gill also brings extensive governance experience across many organisations and has also undertaken Leadership Training through the University of Otago School of Business.




Sharron Davie-Martin – Board Member, South Island 

Sharron has been involved with Rural Women New Zealand for about 14 years and has Chaired her local Branch for 10 years. She has been a member of the Region 2 Area Committee Management Team for about 5 years and a Leadership Councillor for a little over a year. Sharron sits on the Scotlands Te Kiteroa and Adverse Events Relief Fund Committees and is the Treasurer of Rural Women Canterbury Charitable Fund.

Sharron is involved in several community groups centred on rural people. Her special interest lies in assisting immigrants to settle into their working environment and the local area.

Sharron’s spare time is spent with family and travelling.