The Square, Palmerston North
March 11 – 13 2022
Margaret Kouvelis is a powerhouse with diverse expertise spanning education, local government, business retail, and consultancy. With an impressive background encompassing over 30 years of experience, Margaret’s knowledge and skillset are second to none.
Margaret’s journey in education began as a science and biology teacher, eventually leading her to head Art and Music departments. Her passion for enhancing professionalism in teaching drove her to become the secondary school adviser to the Teacher Registration Board and the first CEO of the NZ Teachers Council. Seeking new challenges, she established her own company, Proed Services, which allowed her to monitor education reforms in Qatar and establish a performing arts department in a prestigious international school in Beijing.
After an eventful return to New Zealand following a bomb scare in Qatar, Margaret ventured into the business world. She successfully owned and operated the award-winning “Poppies”; an independent bookstore with branches in Feilding and Whanganui. Additionally, Margaret embraced public service, serving as the Mayor of the Manawatu District Council for two terms. Margaret was pivotal in driving regional growth through the Accelerate25 strategy during her tenure.
Margaret’s dedication to empowering young people led her to establish Talent Central, a charitable trust focused on providing meaningful education and training pathways to equip the next generation with informed choices for their future employment.
Margaret holds esteemed positions as the Chair of the NZ Rural Games, Te Manawa Family Services, Collective Intelligence, and Deputy Chair of Central Energy Trust. In recognition of her remarkable contributions to education and local government, Margaret was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2019.
With Margaret Kouvelis at the helm, you can trust in her wealth of experience, strategic leadership, and unwavering commitment to positively impacting education, community development, and rural engagement.
In 2013, Steve Hollander founded the NZ Rural Games Trust. This pioneering initiative paved the way for successfully launching the NZ Rural Games, Rural Sports Awards, Agri Futures, and Clash of The Colleges.
Born in Christchurch, he studied Phys Ed at Otago University, Steve embarked on an incredible eight-year journey, exploring different parts of the world, mainly Europe and the Middle East.
Upon returning to New Zealand, Steve delved into the travel industry, gaining valuable experience before becoming a business owner and establishing his own agency. Recognising the synergy between sports and hospitality, he ventured into event travel management, focusing on sporting events in New Zealand and overseas.
Alongside his dedicated wife Karen, a vital Games team member, Steve resides on a picturesque lifestyle property north of Auckland. Their two sons have also found their respective paths, excelling as a rural fencer and making waves in the musical theatre industry.
Steve has an entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated through Future Post – a growing company that turns New Zealand’s plastic waste into fence posts.
With a deep-rooted love for sports and community, Steve has played multiple sports at a premier club level and maintains a strong interest in various athletic pursuits. However, his main recreational hobby lies in the thrilling world of Harness Racing.
Ben Allomes is a dedicated award-winning Dairy and Beef Farmer from Woodville in the picturesque Tararua district. Alongside his wife Nicky and their four teenage children, Ben has established himself as a respected figure within the agricultural community.
Ben’s journey with the NZ Rural Games began with his early involvement in New Zealand Young Farmers, where he excelled as a grand finalist and later served as National President. His passion for empowering others and driving growth led him to contribute his expertise during his 8-year tenure on the DairyNZ Board, where he also held the prestigious position of Chair for the NZ Dairy Industry Awards Trust.
In 2018 Ben and Nicky won the Innovative Employment Practices Award and Minister’s Award at the Primary Industries Good Employer Awards.
He is a Board member of Food and Fibre CoVe, developed to promote excellence and innovation in vocational education.
Working closely with people and witnessing their personal and professional development has always been a driving force for Ben. Whether through competitions, education, or workplace engagement, he is committed to helping individuals thrive and excel in their endeavours.
Ben recognises the NZ Rural Games as an exceptional platform to showcase athletes’ remarkable talents and unwavering dedication within the rural sector. Moreover, he acknowledges its potential to inspire and engage future generations of farmers through programs such as Agri Futures and Clash of the Colleges.
With Ben’s unwavering dedication, extensive experience, and genuine commitment to fostering growth and celebrating rural sports, the NZ Rural Games continues flourishing as a vibrant and inclusive event
Brendan Bourke is a seasoned professional with over 20 years of experience in planning and delivering major events across the globe. From the Commonwealth Games to America’s Cup and various Rugby, Cricket, and Football World Cups, Brendan has been at the forefront of organising some of the most prestigious sporting spectacles. Notably, he recently played a pivotal role in successfully staging the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.
Brendan’s connection to the agriculture industry runs deep, as he was born and raised on a dairy farm in Taranaki. While studying Sport Management and Coaching at Massey University, he actively participated in the agricultural sector, relieving milking duties at numerous dairy farms in South Taranaki. This first-hand experience has given him a unique perspective and understanding of the food and fibre sector.
In 2019, Brendan joined the NZRG Board, driven by his passion for bringing together the rural industry and sports and event management. Attending rural games over the years has reaffirmed his belief in the remarkable contributions made by the rural sector to sporting associations across the country.
Residing in Hawkes Bay, Brendan cherishes spending quality time with his family. Whether exploring bike trails, watching his kids play football, or trekking up the picturesque Te Mata Peak, he embraces the beauty of his surroundings alongside his wife, Steffi and their twins, George and Isabella.
With his wealth of experience, deep-rooted connection to agriculture, and commitment to family, Brendan Bourke is a trusted expert and a valuable asset to any event or project he undertakes.
James Stewart is a dedicated generational farmer actively involved in agricultural for over 20 years. Situated on the outskirts of Palmerston North City, James has cultivated a wealth of knowledge and expertise in farming practices. However, his journey extends beyond the boundaries of traditional farming.
James has explored other ventures throughout his career, including the tourism sector and farming politics. These experiences have allowed him to diversify and expand the family farming business, showcasing his entrepreneurial spirit and versatility.
James effortlessly transitions between the vibrant networking scene of Palmerston North’s cafes and the serene environment of his farm. His passion for the Rural Games is evident through his role as a trustee, advocating for the concept of uniting country and city and fostering a sense of community togetherness.
When he’s not busy tending to his farm, James enjoys spending quality time with his family, indulging in his love for sports, immersing himself in reading, staying abreast of business and governance matters, actively engaging in environmental work on his farm and savouring a good cup of coffee.
James’s vast farming background, wide-ranging experiences, and authentic dedication to community involvement makes him a valuable asset, contributing a wealth of knowledge and expertise to every project or event he takes on.
Richard Lange is a distinguished senior partner at Simpson Grierson, a renowned national law firm and a prominent supporter of the Rural Games. From the event’s inception, Richard has served as a trustee, driven by his enduring friendship with the founder of the Rural Games, Steve Hollander. Like many others, Richard was effortlessly drawn into Steve’s captivating web of vision and passion.
While Richard is typically attired in a suit and tie within the bustling confines of his Auckland office, his annual pilgrimage to the Rural Games has become a highly anticipated highlight on his calendar, offering a welcome change of pace. Despite lacking a rural background, Richard seizes the opportunity to engage with individuals in the rural sector and immerse himself in the quintessential New Zealand celebration. He finds this experience incredibly intriguing, rewarding, and a vital platform for fostering a deeper understanding between town and country.
As the self-proclaimed “token Auckland city-slicker”; on the trust board, Richard takes great pride in bringing a unique perspective. Additionally, as an avid golfer grappling with the intricacies of the sport, he finds the recent inclusion of the Rural Golf charity event to be an irresistible drawcard.
With his extensive legal expertise, unwavering support, and genuine commitment to bridging the gap between urban and rural communities, Richard is an indispensable asset to the Rural Games, inspiring confidence and driving its continued success.
Born and raised on a farm in South Otago, Athol Stephens knew early on that he had to chart a different path from farming. Being one of four boys, he knew that he would need to find an alternative career.
Accounting seemed like the logical choice, and it turned out to be a wise decision. The beauty of accounting is its portability, which allowed Athol to work in various locations around the world. He spent eighteen years in the UK and another seventeen years in the Middle East, working in the oilfield industry. Eventually, he returned to his roots and served as the Chief Financial Officer of Dunedin City Council for a remarkable 17 years.
Despite his extensive experience in the corporate and governmental sectors, Athol managed to retain his connection to farming. Memories of fencing, shearing, and haymaking stayed with him, enabling him to engage in conversations, up to a point, within the farming community.
The opportunity to help the New Zealand Rural Games Trust with governance and the Trust’s financials came about when the Rural Games were being planned. Initially, the Games were held in Queenstown, and Athol stayed with the Board when the Games moved to Palmerston North – “I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said.