The Special Olympics New Zealand Board of Trustees is responsible for the governance of the organisation. They meet quarterly throughout the year.
Board of Trustees 2020
Members of the Board come from a wide-range of backgrounds but all have an interest in Special Olympics New Zealand (SONZ).
Some of the Trustees are family members of athletes, some have medical expertise in intellectual disabilities and some are experts in the sport.
Other members have expertise in business, in government relations or in publicity.
View our 2019 Annual Report for information on what SONZ and the Board of Trustees have accomplished in 2019 and view our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan for information on our vision for the future.
Rob Torrance — Chair
Rob is currently the Chair of the Special Olympics New Zealand Board, Chair of the Lower South Island Regional Council and Chair of the Otago Club.
Rob has been a Firefighter for 39 years and is currently the Assistant Area Commander for the East Otago District and is responsible for staff at six stations in Dunedin.
Rob has been involved in mainstream basketball as a player and coach at national level for about 40 years and has coached Special Olympics athletes for around 20 years.
Rob was involved with the Special Olympics World Summer Games on two occasions, as a basketball coach in 2007 to Shanghai and as Head of Delegation to the 2011 games in Athens.
Rob’s son participates in Special Olympics in several sports and he supports him in his endeavours.
Peter Taylor — Deputy Chair
Peter Taylor joined the Special Olympics Board in 2018, bringing with him experience from the finance sector as well as in elite sports.
Peter was a full-time athlete with the New Zealand Elite Rowing Team for 10 years, competing at three Olympic Games (2008, 2012 and 2016) with an Olympic Bronze as his highest achievement.
In 2016, Peter transitioned to a career in finance, working for Private Equity firm, Rangatira Investments and more recently, Venture Capital firm, Movac in Wellington. Here he oversees a portfolio of private investments, analysing potential new investments, and working with young technology companies who are seeking investment as they drive to making healthy returns for their investors.
Education: Bachelor of Commerce (Finance and Accounting) at the University of Auckland, Post-Graduate Diploma in Advance Sport Management.
Hamish Taverner — Athlete Representative
Hamish Taverner has been a Special Olympics athlete for over 35 years, starting at Special Olympics Whanganui in 1981 and moving to Special Olympics Manawatu in 2003 after moving to Palmerston North.
Hamish’s main sports are Swimming, Soccer and Ten Pin Bowling which he has excelled in. Hamish attended the 1996 Asia Pacific Games in China for Swimming and Soccer, in 2011 Hamish was selected to attend the World Summer Games in Athens, participating in Ten Pin Bowling.
Hamish has attended many National Summer Games over the last 35 years, which a highlight in 2009 where he carried the torch on the final lap of the Law Enforcement Torch Run with Police Commissioner, Howard Broad finishing with Hamish lighting the flame and reading the Oath.
Hamish completed the Special Olympics Athlete Leadership Programme in 2010 and in 2018 became the athlete representative on the Special Olympics New Zealand Board.
Outside of Special Olympics Hamish has taken on many leadership roles, advocating for people with disabilities. Hamish has served as a National Team Member Standard and Monitoring Services (SAMS), involved with People First since 1985 and became Rangitikei President from 1990 – 2003, and NZ National President from 2012 – 2016 being involved with meetings in Wellington (Office of Disability, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health).
In 2016 Hamish became a delegate with International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disability. In 2017 Hamish was nominated and won the Attitude Awards for “The Leadership Award” category and in 2019 Hamish was also awarded the People First award “Leone Gitmans Te Aranga Award” for people with learning disabilities in New Zealand.
Mike Ringrose — Upper North Island Council Chair
Mike is currently Technical Manager for New Zealand Starch Ltd, the sole NZ maize wet-miller producing starches and syrups for food and industrial markets.
Mike is experienced in regulatory, compliance, auditing, analytical and product development functions extending over 30 years. Mike has been or is involved in administrative roles with University Netball and various Cricket organisations over 40 years.
He is currently passionately involved with several sports including the development of Onehunga Sports Waikaraka facility and the promotion of over-40s sporting opportunities.
He believes in the benefit from community of sport involvement and the aim of inclusiveness. Mike is a volunteer with Special Olympics and has attended Nationals as Basketball Coach and in Head of Delegation roles. Mike has attended two World Games as a supporter of his son and is currently Chair of the Northern Regional Council.
Simone Kokaua — Central North Island Council Chair
Ko Weraiti te maunga, Ko Waihou te awa, Ko Tainui te waka, Ko Ngāti Hinerangi rāua ko Kuki Airani ngā iwi, Ko Simone Kokaua tōku ingoa.
Simone has spent 17 years in the Building Supplies Industry, before moving into the transport industry and working with the Special Needs section for 7 years. This extended to enjoying a short time as a teacher aide at specialist school for children and young people who have an intellectual disability.
Her passion for her athletes was the driving force to pursue more knowledge. Simone graduated from Centre of Sport Science and Human Performance – Wintec with a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science in 2019. She was also involved as an Active and Well Coordinator with Sport Waikato.
Simone has recently been elected as Chair of Central North Island Regional Council and Vice-Chair of Special Olympics Waikato as of April 2020. Simone’s involvement with our athletes spans 10 plus years in varied roles.
The primary reason for her engagement with Special Olympics Waikato was the pleasure that sport gave her nephew, while playing basketball and football. During this time, Simone has also attended two World Summer Games, as an Assistant Coach for Athletics in Los Angeles 2015 and Basketball in Abu Dhabi 2019.
Matthew Burgess — Lower North Island Council Chair
Matthew has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Loughborough University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Management Studies and a Diploma in Applied Social Sciences from the Open University.
He worked in the electricity industry for 20 years, initially as an electrical engineer before moving into ICT and change management. He moved to New Zealand in 2009, working as a contract portfolio and programme manager before setting up a management consultancy business, In2Excellence, in 2014 to provide business change, assurance, operations and risk management services, primarily to Government agencies.
Matthew volunteers in a number of roles for Special Olympics in addition to his role as Board trustee, including head coach and team manager for Wellington football, and chair of the Wellington club and the Lower North Island Regional Council.
Jeff Waters — Upper South Island Council Chair
Jeff graduated from Otago University with Bachelor and Post Graduate degrees in Science (Geology). He worked in the roading industry applying science to roading and attained an NZCE (Civil) to extend his engineering knowledge.
He recently left his role after 35 years as National Surfacing Engineer at Fulton, where he managed 40 staff and a budget of $30 million. He is currently teaching post graduate students at the New Zealand Institute of Highway Technology, managing a research project for NZTA as well as developing training courses for teaching NZTA staff on roading.
The eldest of his three daughters (now 25) has Down Syndrome and she joined Special Olympics 16 years ago in 2004. Jeff has been a volunteer since then volunteering at the 2005 Asia Pacific Games and becoming Chairperson of Special Olympics Canterbury in 2008 and Chairperson of the Upper South Island Regional Council in 2008.
He is a strong advocate for the athletes and continues to support their need to have a voice in the community and their right to be a productive member of society.
Alan Robson — Independent Appointment
Al graduated from Lincoln University with a Diploma in Horticulture. His career has mostly been associated with the primary sector where he has held a range of management positions, working within or supporting the wider horticultural and arable farming sectors, as well as the dairy and meat industries.
He currently holds an Executive management position with the SOE AsureQuality.
Al has a sporting background with a passion for basketball spanning a 45 year involvement in the sport. Along the way he has played in the National League for the Canterbury Rams and coaching a range of age groups collecting five National Championships along the way.
During his 20 years as a Special Olympics volunteer in Canterbury, Al has attended 3 World Games — two as Head Coach for basketball (Athens in 2011 and Los Angeles 2015) and more recently using his experience as Head of Delegation for the New Zealand team at the World Games in Abu Dhabi.
Al has been a Board member since 2017.
Erica Amon — Independent Appointment
Erica graduated from Otago University with Bachelor and Masters degrees in Clinical Pharmacy.
With over 20 years working in a variety of roles in the health sector, Erica is currently Regional Operations Manager for Healthcare of New Zealand — the largest provider of community-based health services and residential disability services in New Zealand. Here she oversees 7 services and over 1,400 staff.
Erica has been an active member of the Institute of Directors, including 10 years’ service on the Waikato branch committee. Erica’s past governance roles include chair of Waikato Youth Empowerment Trust, and board member of Waikato Golf Association and Pohlen Community Hospital Trust Board.
She is a keen sports participant, having represented Waikato in golf, plus coached juniors so believes in and understands the value of sport in growing confidence, self-efficacy and social skills in all.
Graeme Porter — Independent Appointment
Graeme Porter has been an athlete for over 14 years with Special Olympics Nelson. Graeme’s main sport is basketball, where he has been captain and Assistant Coach with the Nelson basketball team.
Graeme has attended many National Summer Games and also represented Special Olympics New Zealand in basketball at the World Summer Games in 2007. Graeme has also attended Regional Games in 2008 and 2013. Graeme has tried many other sports too.
Since becoming an Athlete Leader in 2010 Graeme has taken on leadership roles. Graeme has served as the Chair of the Nelson club athlete committee, the athlete representative on the Nelson club committee.
Graeme has also been the athlete representative on the Upper South Island Regional Council, the athlete representative on the Special Olympics New Zealand Board, and since 2017 has been appointed as an independent member of the Board. Additionally, Graeme has been a member of the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Athlete Input Council based out of Singapore, finishing his term at the beginning of 2020.
Graeme has been married for over 11 years to Nyssa and has two daughters Lilly-rose 7 years old and Violet 5 months. Graeme works full time and has an aluminium journey by trade and truck drive. In the summer months Graeme will be found on the Speedway track with his other passion, racing a TQ midget in speedway.
Lisa Towey — Independent Appointment
Lisa has a Political Science Degree from Canterbury University. With almost two decades in the workforce, Lisa has had a diverse career starting in PR and communications and community engagement in politics before moving into the commercial world.
Lisa’s experience spans large companies to tech start-ups in operations, marketing and partnerships.
Lisa brings skills in operationalising digital business models, acquiring and growing engagement of partners and stakeholders and building brands.
A mum of three, Lisa has a genuine care for the community served by SONZ as she has a daughter with physical and intellectual disabilities.
A keen sportsperson herself, Lisa believes in the qualities and enrichment that participation in sports bring to individuals and their families.