The Zonta Club of Rotorua is delighted to say that five of the 50 Zonta New Zealand Women of Achievement Awards 2019 have been awarded to Rotorua women.

Nominations were made by Zonta clubs, organisations and individuals throughout New Zealand and judged by an independent panel.

Fifty Women of Achievement were chosen in 2016 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Zonta in New Zealand and a further 50 in 2019 for the Zonta International Centennial.

The Rotorua awardees are Sarah Davis, Janette Irvine, Lizzie Marvelly, Kahira-Rata Olley and Michelle Pleydell.


These women have been chosen for their work empowering women and girls.

Sarah Davis JP was nominated by the Zonta Club of Timaru, where she had been headmistress of the Timaru Girls' High School from 2011 to January 2019, before returning to Rotorua to head Rotorua Girls' High School.

While in Timaru she "turned the school around", increasing the school roll, set up a modern Hall of Fame and set up a Teen Parent Study Unit.

She is a strong advocate for girls' state education, inviting inspirational speakers to the school and encouraging girls to follow studies in areas such as engineering and trades.

She has also been very involved in sport, chairing Sport South Canterbury, involved in the Central South Island Charity Bike Ride for eight years, a Rotary Club Director and Justice of the Peace.

Janette Irvine, nominated by the Zonta Club of Rotorua, is a retired general practitioner.

Much of her medical work focused on women and children and she served on a number of medical committees in a voluntary capacity.

In the late 1980s she underwent training with Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care and started doing forensic examinations for sexual assault victims for the police, continuing for 12 years.


In later years, Irvine's voluntary medical involvement centred more on quality assurance and peer assessment.

She has been a member of Zonta for 30 years, serving on the district board for six years, the last two as governor, 2014-2016.

During that time she oversaw Zonta becoming a partner on the NZ Women's Empowerment Principles Committee and she has continued working on that committee.

Lizzie Marvelly, nominated by the Zonta Clubs of Rotorua and Auckland North Shore, is a passionate advocate for women and children.

In May 2015 she launched, an online media project aiming to create smart, "no-filter" media for young women.

In 2017 Villainesse won the Best Blog Award in the Canon Media Awards.

Lizzie writes a weekly column for the Weekend Herald and has won the Opinion Writer award for this.

She co-founded 'Wahine Kakano –The New Zealand Young Women's Festival' with the Human Rights Commission, an opportunity for young women to be inspired, invigorated and empowered.

She has received many accolades for her work on empowering women and addressing diversity issues in this country and been the keynote speaker at many important women's events.

Kahira-Rata Olley, nominated by the Zonta Club of Rotorua, has dedicated her life to the elimination of sexual and domestic violence.

As a survivor herself she has used her life experiences to identify gaps in the community and set about filling them with initiatives and programmes to lift up and support vulnerable women and children.

These include 'All About Me Fitness', Cuppa & Korero sessions for victims and survivors of sexual & domestic violence, 'Serenity Sistaz Wellness Weekend' one per term, depending on funding, and 'Full Puku Full Potential' to reduce the number of children going to school hungry.

She has completed two ultra-long distance runs to raise awareness of these issues.

She says, "We inspire one person to make positive change, we help whanau, over time the community reaps the rewards, this I know to be true because I'm living proof of it".

Michelle Pleydell JP, nominated by the Zonta Club of Rotorua, is the Rotorua Dress for Success (DFS) Charitable Trust president, a volunteer leadership role she has held since 2013.

Michelle joined this organisation as a founding board member in 2011, "to help members of the community thrive in work and in life".

Michelle has contributed hundreds of voluntary hours during the last eight years to making Rotorua DFS the place to go to for women and girls seeking a supportive pathway to employment and future careers.

Michelle's management training and leadership skills have ensured that programmes run by DFS volunteers have equipped women with skills to secure and retain a job.

She is also involved with fundraising and securing financial grants.

In 2018, Dress for Success Rotorua Charitable Trust was the winner of the Trust Power Community Award for the Health and Wellbeing category.

The awards were presented at a cocktail function at the Millennium Hotel on the evening of the centennial - November 8, 2019.

Also presented at these awards were Rotorua's Club Centennial Champion Award to National Sexual Violence Survivor advocate Louise Nicholas, and the Club Centennial Community Award to Waiariki Women's Refuge.