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New Year Honours

Rural Women New Zealand congratulates of our members who have received remarkable recognition for their extensive and positive contributions to the rural sector and their communities.

RWNZ Board Chair Penny Mudford has been named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for her services to arbitration and the primary industries sector. 

Early in her career, Ms Mudford was a dairy farmer and partner in DK and PJ Mudford Dairy Farming Partnership for 20 years, whilst being active on Boards such as the Rural Women’s Discussion Group, and Westpac Trust Kiwi Dairy Farmer of the Year. In 2000, she became Chief Executive of the Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand, a role she held for seven years. She has since gone into private practice as a dispute resolution practitioner specialised in the resolution of rural disputes, farming contracts, livestock agreements, and farm equity partnerships. After holding a variety of committee roles within the Manawatu/Rangitikei branch of Federated Farmers, she was elected provincial President in 1999. Penny is a member of the New Zealand Walking Access Commission and is Chair of the Racing Safety Development Industry Working Group.


Isobel Greenwood has been awarded the Queen's Service Medal (QSM) for community service. Isobel has supported the people of Tomarata and surrounding districts in a multitude of volunteer roles for the past 50 years.

Her extensive roles and support have included environmental initiatives such as working with the Tomarata Lake Restoration Committee, leading action to have the World War Two names added to the local war memorial, volunteering her time to restore and upgrade the local community hall. She was one of the founding committee members for the establishment of the local playgroup and chapter of the Brownies movement. She has contributed many years of fund raising for the local Plunket Society, has been a Citizens Advice Bureau volunteer, a committee member for the Tomarata Tennis Club and an active member of RWNZ for over 40 years. Being involved with the Tomarata Primary School, Isobel has held many roles there including inaugural librarian, teaching crafts to students, Calf Club Committee Member and returning officer for the first nine Board of Trustees election cycles.


Joan Howse has received the QSM for services to women and the community.

She was a conveyor of the National Standing Committee for Justice and Law Reform. She was a member of the Whangarei Health Camp Board from 1969 and served as Chairperson during this time. Joan was a long-serving Chairman for the Northland Homecare Scheme. As a member of ACWW, she attended the World Conference for many years, and in 1977 created a wall panel which was presented at the conference in Beijing. She has also held many positions with the Northland Justices of the Peace Association, including Treasurer, President and Patron, and has a compiled history of the Association from 1951 to 2000. Joan is also a member of the Women's Fellowship of St John Church in Whangarei, a YMCA Board member, patron and Life Member. She received a New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medial in 1993.



Joy Cowley also known as (Mrs) Joy Coles, DCNZM, OBE, is a recent member of RWNZ and has been named as Member of the Order of New Zealand. She has been a successful, prolific writer of adult and children's fiction books which have gained recognition both nationally and internationally.

Joy has supported children's education through teaching early reading skills and helping those with reading difficulties, as well as writing over 1000 books to assist in teaching reading and other associated skills. She is a patron and former Trustee of the Storylines Children's Literature Charitable Trust, which supports and promotes the development of children's and young adults' literature in New Zealand.

Her wide recognition includes numerous national and international literary awards, including the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in fiction in 2010, and the University of Alabama's Maryann Manning Award for Outstanding Literacy Scholar in 2011. Since being appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2005, she has continued to write for publication, the most recent book being 'Helper and Helper' in 2017. She is also the Honourary President of the New Zealand Society of Authors.

Joy was a former judge of the RWNZ Olive Burdekin Advance Writers Competition and a member of the Kenepuru branch. She was very generous to RWNZ and the community while living in the Marlborough Sounds.


Thelma Margaret Luxton Queen's Service Medal (QSM) for her services to the community and cricket. She is a member of the RWNZ Motunui branch.

Thelma has been a member of the Soroptimists International Waitara since 1984, contributing to membership development, as Treasurer, and as President for three separate terms. She held the title of Regional Programme Director and Archivist of Soroptimists International New Zealand Central, and held previous roles including President. She has been a Trustee of North Taranaki Healthcare Trust since 2005 and led fundraising of $1.5 million to establish and outfit a Health Centre, and supported the establishment of a range of health services at the Health Centre.

Thelma undertook research during her academic studies and wrote a publication for Rural Women New Zealand.

She has been involved with cricket in Waitara since the 1950s, having been scorer for Brixton and then Waitara Cricket Clubs from 1955 to 1991. Thelma has been the Secretary/Treasurer for Waitara Cricket Club and Manukorihi Sports Complex, and the official scorer for Taranaki Cricket Association since 1972. She holds title as Chairperson of Massey Trust since 1981, which supports Waitara High School with sports equipment and uniforms along with other school needs.





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(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.