New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has its first female board member in its 124 year history.
Three-times World Cup winning captain and World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Dr Farah Palmer has been elected to the board following the recent retirement of Māori Representative Wayne Peters.
It's been a year marred by off-field incidents for NZR and the resulting adverse publicity highlighted the lack of diversity in the governance at all levels of the game.
NZR were keen to increase that diversity by bringing a woman on to the previously all-male board.
Dr Palmer, a former Black Fern and current member of the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board, was unanimously elected by NZR's voting members prior to yesterday's scheduled meeting of the NZR Board.
NZR chairman Brent Impey congratulated Dr Palmer on her election as Māori Representative on the Board, saying her experience on and off the field would be an asset to rugby's future success.
"I am confident that Farah's understanding of the issues facing rugby gained through roles with the Māori Rugby Board, NZR's Rugby Committee and work for World Rugby, as well as from an exceptional playing career, will be invaluable to the game's future and particularly that of Māori rugby.
"As well as congratulating Farah on her election, I also want to acknowledge the Provincial Unions for nominating and ultimately electing Farah as their Māori Representative to the Board. While Dr Palmer becomes the first woman elected to NZR's Board in its almost 125 history, she clearly represented the best person for the role and the interests of Māori rugby."
Dr Palmer (ONZM), a senior lecturer at Massey University's School of Management and Director at the university's Māori business and leadership centre, said she would build on the work of outgoing Board member Wayne Peters, in advocating for Maori rugby.
"It's a great honour and privilege to be elected to an organisation that means so much to so many and plays such a fundamental role in New Zealand society.
"There are more Maori playing rugby than ever before and an unprecedented number pulling on a black jersey, whether that's with the All Blacks, Black Ferns, Sevens teams or Māori All Blacks.
"I am grateful to the Provincial Unions for electing me to the position and look forward to building on Wayne's enormous contribution to the game."
As the Māori Representative on NZR's Board, Dr Palmer assumes the Chair of the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board (NZMRB).
The NZMRB, originally established in 1910, is an affiliated body of NZR.
Acting Chairman of the NZMRB, Peter Goldsmith said the appointment of Dr Palmer as Chair of the Maori Rugby Board would ensure a seamless transition of leadership.
"As a committed member of the Maori Rugby Board over several years, Farah's election to the full NZR Board is great for Māori rugby. She has already worked closely with former Chairman Wayne Peters and NZR's management team to ensure Māori has a strong voice in the game.
"On behalf of the Māori Rugby Board, we congratulate Farah and look forward to her leadership in the years ahead."
Dr Palmer was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in the 2007 New Year's Honours for services to women's rugby and sport.
Earlier this year, the women's provincial championship was renamed the Farah Palmer Cup in recognition of her contribution to women's rugby.
"While it's not without its challenges, rugby is in good heart in New Zealand with our national teams excelling on the world stage, record numbers of women playing and increased pathways for Maori to play at the highest level," said Dr Palmer.
"I'm looking forward to offering a different perspective on the NZR Board and contributing to robust discussion and effective decision-making; ensuring NZR continues to meet the high expectations of not just Maori, but all New Zealanders."
Farah Rangikoepa Palmer was born to Bruce Palmer and Judith Palmer (nee King; Waikato [Ngati Mahuta] - descendant of Turanga King from Tahaaroa and Ngati Maniapoto [Ngati Waiora] - Huia Whanau from Piopio).