Women-in-farming groups have new leaders

ANNE BOSWELL
Last updated 11:12 02/12/2013
Zelda de Villiers is the new chief executive of the Dairy Women's Network Trust Board.
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CEO: Zelda de Villiers is the new chief executive of the Dairy Women's Network Trust Board.
Wendy McGowan is the new national president of Rural Women NZ.
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NEW PREZ: Wendy McGowan is the new national president of Rural Women NZ.

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Two of the country's most prominent women-in-farming organisations have new national leaders.

Rural Women NZ announced Wendy McGowan as the new national president at the annual meeting in Wellington, while the Dairy Women's Network Trust Board has announced the appointment of Zelda de Villiers as chief executive.

McGowan said she first joined Rural Women as a shy 20-year-old and found solace in the group after she married a North Island farmer and moved to a community where she knew no one.

''The group introduced me to the community. They gave a very shy person little jobs and built her confidence and here I am, 39 years later, having proceeded right through to the top.''

McGowan has previously served a three-year term as national vice-president, and has been the national councillor for Bay of Plenty/Coromandel for the past eight years, taking a special interest in land use issues, biosecurity and food safety.

As national president, she hopes to make the organisation's branch structure more visible to help grow membership.

''As national president I will build on our organisation's goals and aspirations to be dynamic, vibrant, leading, innovative and visible at all levels,'' she said.

Mrs McGowan believes community-oriented organisations such as Rural Women are as relevant today as ever.

''Rural Women NZ's interest in land, health, education and community issues need our attention and advocacy, just as they did in the 1920s. These areas need to remain viable and readily available to the rural community. Encouraging women living in rural communities to voice their concerns and support for one another is what we do well.''

McGowan and her husband, Rusty, farm a 260ha dairy support unit in Kaharoa in the Bay of Plenty. She is also an enrolled nurse and works as a casual play specialist at Rotorua Hospital's Children's Unit.

De Villiers is set to start in the Hamilton-based role of Dairy Women's Network chief executive in January.

Currently the managing director of De Laval, Ms de Villiers has more than 20 years experience in the international agricultural industry. She holds a Bachelor of Science in agricultural economics with honours and a Diploma in Animal Nursing, both from Pretoria University, and spent the first 10 years of her career in  rural banking in South Africa.

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Dairy Women's Network chair Michelle Wilson said de Villiers had an ''exceptional understanding of the challenges New Zealand's dairy farming women face''.

''She has extensive strategic leadership, corporate development, marketing and sales and networking experience.

''She has led a number of teams and events, and her expertise is a valuable addition not only to the success of the Dairy Women's Network but also to leadership in the New Zealand agricultural sector.'

- © Fairfax NZ News

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