welcome back, !

Home : About Rural Women NZ : Rural Women New Zealand National Board

Rural Women New Zealand National Board

Rural Women New Zealand 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 is a graduate of the Agri-Women's Development Trust Escalator programme and has served on our National Council since 2013.

Fiona was a Kellogg rural leadership scholar in 2009, and holds a diploma from Lincoln University in wool technology. She is presently on the Onewhero-Tuakau Community Board and the Waikato Conservation Board. Fiona is Secretary of the Onewhero Swimming Club and a member of the Port Waikato BeachCare committee.

Fiona and her family live on a farm at Port Waikato and when not fulfilling her community commitments and running after her school aged children, she is a casual worker on the farm.

Email: [email protected]


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.

Email: [email protected]

Rachael Dean – National Finance Chair  

Rachael Dean, BCom.; C.I.A.; C.A.; has held multiple roles including Provincial President, in Rural Women New Zealand since returning to New Zealand in 2004. In these roles, she has successfully combined her experience in rural communities - which began in the South Island High Country - with senior corporate financial and governance roles both in New Zealand and overseas.   

Rachael has served on numerous public bodies, including Southland Area Health Board, Waikato Chamber of Commerce, Sport Waikato, Invercargill City Council, Diving New Zealand, Northamptonshire County Health Partnership, and Wellingborough Borough Council, England; and has chaired several committees.

Rachael maintains her interest in international affairs and in the past two years took a study trip to the UAE to learn more about their culture, education, business, law, and finance; and in 2015 attended a symposium in Brussels on Lead in Ammunition.

Rachael is the author of a New Zealand history book, From the Other End of the World. She is also a keen shooter, shooting FTR, Service rifle and pistol, and is a member of several of her local clubs.

Email: [email protected]


Janet Williams – Board Member, North Island 

Janet Williams was one of the fifty Zonta “Woman of Achievement” recipients in 2016. Janet’s leadership involvement in Rural Women New Zealand started at branch level, Provincial, Regional Management Team and selected as one of the four Rural Women New Zealand members in the Task Force for the last constitutional review. Janet represents Rural Women New Zealand on the Waikato Federated Farmers Board and Hamilton National Council of Women.

Janet is a Justice of the Peace, Judicial Justice and Court Panel Manager of the four Courts in the Waikato. Janet has a regulatory role as a member of the Waikato District Licensing Committee. Janet’s involvement in local community leadership roles include the Pirongia Ward, Koromatua Memorial Hall, Hamilton Life Education Trust, Toastmasters and Lions.

Janet lives just out of Hamilton farming beef and sheep, after being the proud owner of the highest genetic Jersey Stud in New Zealand.

Email: [email protected]

Margaret Pittaway – Board member, South Island 

Margaret joined Rural Women New Zealand in 1996 and was elected to the National Council in 2011. She was the founding member of the Central Otago Women in Agribusiness Group, past President of the Cromwell Branch and Central Otago Provincial. As a retired nurse her key specialties are in rural health and social issues. 

Email: [email protected]

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.

Email: [email protected]


Penelope England - Chief Executive Officer

Penelope joined RWNZ from the Insurance & Savings Ombudsman Scheme Inc. where she set up the role as the Participant Liaison Manager after the Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act 2008.

Prior to that role, Penelope worked as the Communications, Marketing and Membership Manager of the New Zealand Institute of Management, and the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Heating and Air Conditioning.

For the past few years, she has worked in the not for profit (NFP) sector and for membership-based organisations. Each NFP role held has required effective communication with stakeholders at all levels, from members and practitioners to professional industry bodies and government officials.

Penelope is a current appointed board member of the Wellington SPCA and is an advocate for animal welfare. She is passionate about the arts, including visual arts, classical music and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Email: [email protected]

National Office
Level 5, Technology One House, 86-96 Victoria Street, Wellington 6011
Ph: 04 473 5524  

Read All NewsRecent news

(Pictured above: Minister Damien O'Çonnor meeting with RWNZ Chief Executive Officer Penelope England, National President Fiona Gower, National Chair Penny Mudford and Manager of Government, Public Sector and Academic Relationships Angela McLeod.)


Rural Women New Zealand has released a media release supporting the recent announcement to reintegrate rural proofing into policy development. Please read the media release below. 



Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is pleased to see rural proofing is back on the table and being included in the Government’s policy work.

“Understanding the impact that Government policies, service delivery and business behaviour have on our rural communities is not only vital to the success of the rural economy, it builds and maintains our rural social fabric,” says RWNZ National President, Fiona Gower.

“RWNZ has been calling for rural impact analyses to be carried out in both the public and private sector because decisions have, and are being made that have a detrimental effect on rural communities.

“As a member of the advisory group that supported the development of the Government’s new Rural Proofing Guide for Policy Development and Service Delivery Planning, RWNZ is encouraged by the final document.

“RWNZ will continue to work alongside the Government, its agencies and entities to ensure successful implementation of the Rural Proofing Guide.

“The Government’s new rural proofing policy guidelines will go a long way to alleviating poor policy development and service delivery, and RWNZ is looking forward to seeing better outcomes for rural communities,” says Ms Gower.



For further information, please contact National Office:

[email protected]





Rural Proofing Back On the Table

Thursday, June 14, 2018

 Read More


Rural Women New Zealand would like to congratulate Alison Van Wyk for her appointment as CEO of Access Community Health. 



Alison has a background in nursing and possesses sales, marketing and management experience within the pharmaceutical, medical device and healthcare supply chain markets both within New Zealand and internationally. Instrumental in establishing professional programmes of clinical care and advice in pharmacy and the reclassification of medicines for Green Cross Health, Alison has taken a leadership role in advocacy for pharmacy and government relations within the health industry.

Alison commenced her new role effective 18 June 2018.


Rural Women New Zealand has released a media release following the announcement this morning that the Government are giving a funding boost to help improve child and family wellbeing. 


Read the relevant media here.



The announcement this morning that the Government will be giving family violence services a boost of $76.2 million is a step in the right direction for our women and families, says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).

“New Zealand’s rate of violence against women and children is unacceptable – it is great to see the Government increasing support services for women, families, and communities in need," says RWNZ National Chair, Penny Mudford.

The Government also announced that additional funding in 2019/2020 would enable services to expand into areas where there is currently no support.

“Women and children living in rural New Zealand have particular challenges and can be vulnerable to physical and psychological abuse due to their geographic and social isolation.

“For some, living rurally means they are some distance from their families and whānau and do not have the support that the wider family can provide.

“Family violence victims in rural New Zealand do not have the same level of access to psychological and legal support as urban women and children do, due to living rurally.

“RWNZ hope that this boost announced by the Government will be used to empower our rural communities by giving women and children who are victims of violence the help and support they so badly need,” says Ms Mudford.


Rural Women New Zealand have released a media release raising our concerns for how data is being collected in this year's census.

Please read the media release below.


This year’s census is in danger of not providing the data needed to make good decisions, says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).

“Whilst we understand and support the excitement of capturing our census data online, our concern is that many people still do not have access to internet while others might not have the capability or capacity to do so,” says National President, Fiona Gower.

“The timing of the delivery of access code letters, which indicate that New Zealanders can opt for paper forms presents challenges for our rural communities, given that delivery of mail is taking longer and might only be delivered three days a week.

“The chances of a rural household without internet or with unreliable internet, receiving census paper forms in time for Tuesday, 6 March is slim, and that is concerning.

“RWNZ is doing everything possible to ensure our networks are aware of the new way of doing the Census although surely more thought should have gone in to how the valuable information about the lives and status of New Zealanders would be collected.

“Maybe this year, there could have been a concerted effort to use both electronic collection and paper collection to ensure integrity of the data,” says Ms Gower.



Please contact the National Office for more information.



National Office

Rural Women New Zealand


[email protected]

04 473 5524



(image source: www.census.govt.nz)

Census Data Collection Integrity Questioned

Monday, February 26, 2018

Rural Women New Zealand have released a media release raising our concerns for how data is being collected in this year's census.  Read More

Rural Women New Zealand has today released a media release following the announcement that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will move to shut down if it does not receive funding.

Read the announcement here.  




Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) are saddened to see that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will cease operating if it does not receive government funding next week.


“RWNZ supports the work already done by RHAANZ in bringing together various rural groups and rural health providers to develop initiatives for rural communities,” says RWNZ Board Member and Health Portfolio Convenor, Margaret Pittaway.

“Remarkable work has been done to deliver the Rural Health Road Map which sets out a plan and priorities for achieving healthily rural communities.

“Being geographically isolated, often with significant distance to the nearest town or health centre means that rural communities have an immediate need of affordable and reliable access to all health services.

“The Government has committed to rural proofing government policy, and RHAANZ has a vital part to play in this development – without the continuation of RHAANZ, and the work it does, rural communities will go backwards.

“There is no other place where issues impacting the health and wellbeing of rural communities are considered concurrently, and the loss of achievements met and efforts made by RHAANZ will be detrimental for our rural people.

RWNZ urges the Government to recognise the good work that has been done by RHAANZ and to support its continuation," says Mrs Pittaway.




Another setback for health and wellbeing of rural communities.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Rural Women New Zealand has today released a media release following the announcement that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will move to shut down if it does not receive funding. Read More

Rural Women New Zealand has released a media release regarding our involvement to help support communities affected by the M.bovis outbreak. With 38 farms currently infected, and others under movement control, we encourage farmers to contact their local Rural Support Trust and visit MPI’s website for advice and support.


Read more about this here.

Read the media release below.




  Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) has offered their full support to the Government for communities that are affected by the Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) outbreak. This announcement was made in a meeting earlier this week with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity Damien O’Connor, and Waikato dairy farmers, then reiterated with industry leaders.


“Our rural communities are really hurting in this unprecedented biosecurity outbreak – it is vital they are supported throughout this response, no matter what future plan is decided next week,” says RWNZ National President Fiona Gower.

“From what I saw on Monday and what we are hearing from our members and others in the industry, it is clear that the response to M. bovis is upsetting and we are pleased to have been able to offer our support.

“Since 1925, RWNZ members have been the glue that holds rural communities together and nearly 100 years later we continue by working with Rural Support Trusts, visiting farming families, and offering funding for adverse events.

“The decision to offer our full support comes from recent meetings with industry leaders and the Minister, and from our many years’ experience supporting rural communities.

“We are pleased that RWNZ can continue our tradition of charitable giving and we look forward to working with the Government and industry to ensure rural communities are fully supported through the M. bovis outbreak,” says Ms Gower.