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.
Sue Higgins – Board Member, South Island
Sue Higgins is actively involved in administering her family owned farming and contracting businesses in Nelson. Sue represented Rural Women New Zealand as a director for Access Homehealth Ltd from 2011 – 2013 and before that was a student member of the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand Academic Board.
Having a keen interest in local community and agribusiness matters, Sue is an executive member of Nelson Federated Farmers, a former secretary of the Top of the South Rural Support Trust and past deputy chair of the local Chamber of Commerce business focus group. This followed on from local school and sports committees whilst raising three children. Sue’s health care experience has included advocacy of a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner and many years as a volunteer for Hospice where the positive experience of meeting clients’ needs and desires through home based health care and support was reinforced. Sue completed her Bachelor of Business as an adult student in 2009 and the Kellogg Rural Leaders Programme in 2012 which resulted in a presentation to the agriculture caucus in the Beehive.