Board of Trustees

The Board is the governing body of the organisation and is responsible for the strategic and overall direction of Special Olympics New Zealand, while ensuring that its business is carried out in the best interests of the members and stakeholders.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) describe the role of the board through the Four Pillars of Governance Best Practice:

  1. Determining purpose and setting strategic direction
  2. Leading an effective governance culture
  3. Holding management to account
  4. Ensuring effective compliance (and minimising risk)

View our 2020 Annual Report for information on what SONZ and the Board of Trustees have accomplished in 2020 and view our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan for information on our vision and goals for the future.

Notices from the Board


Board of Trustees members

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.

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.

Follow Peter Taylor on LinkedIn

Grace Payne — Athlete Representative

Grace Payne has been a part of Special Olympics Counties Club since 2010 and currently competes in Basketball and Powerlifting.

Grace currently competes in Basketball and Powerlifting, but has tried out a huge range of sports over the years athletics, football, tenpin bowling and table tennis.

Grace is the captain of her club’s A grade basketball team, the Bullets and has had this role since 2014. In 2016, Counties’ Bullets was New Zealand’s first unified basketball team, which included Special Olympics athletes and mainstream athletes competing together. Grace has also been to two Special Olympics National Games and the 2019 Abu Dhabi World Summer Games, being the first female from New Zealand to compete in basketball, coming 4th in the men’s grade.

In 2017 Grace took her leadership skills from captaining the Bullets basketball team and completed the Athlete Leadership programme. Since 2020, Grace is a co-chair for the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Regional Athlete Input Council and the group focuses on how athlete leaders can use their skills and promote inclusion in society.

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.

Follow Simone on LinkedIn

Anne Cheetham — Lower North Island Council Chair

Originally from Ireland, Anne has lived on the Kapiti Coast since retiring to Waikanae from Melbourne in mid 2018.

She joined the Special Olympics Kapiti club later that year in the role of Fundraising Co-ordinator, and in early 2019 took over as Chair when the existing Chair stepped down due to ill health.  Since then she has focused on supporting the Kapiti convenors and volunteers by ensuring compliance with Charities Commission and SONZ requirements, and leading fundraising efforts. 

Anne’s background is in business and IT, with Companies such as KPMG and IBM and working across the UK and Europe, New Zealand and Australia.  Recently elected to Chair of the Lower North Island Regional Committee, her aim is to facilitate sharing experience between Clubs and encourage inter-club co-operation.  Anne is looking forward to attending her first National Summer Games in Hamilton later in the year, and to cheering on all the teams and especially our Kapiti athletes.

Al 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 was, until recently, Regional Manager for Healthcare of New Zealand — the largest provider of community-based health services and residential disability services in New Zealand, where she oversaw 7 services and over 1,400 staff.

She is now an Associate with Navigator Ltd, a small consultancy firm that work with NGO and iwi organisations in the transitioning of strategy into viable operations.

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.

Follow Erica on LinkedIn

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.

Follow Lisa on LinkedIn


Sub-committees

Members of the Board are allocated positions on the following committees:

Finance, Audit and Risk Committee

  • Peter Taylor (Chair)
  • Erica Amon
  • Simone Kokaua
  • Alan Robson

Sports Committee

  • Rob Torrance
  • Alan Robson

Diversity Committee

  • Simone Kokaua
  • Erica Amon
  • Lisa Towey

Awards Committee

  • TBC

National Summer Games Risk Committee

  • Rob Torrance (Chair)
  • Peter Taylor
  • Erica Amon
  • Simone Kakaua
  • Alan Robson