About Toastmasters International

Where Leaders Are Made

Toastmasters has been helping people develop communication and leadership skills since 1924. We currently have over 280,000 members in 14700 clubs worldwide. Run almost entirely by volunteers, we offer one of the most affordable self-development programmes available!

Ralph Smedley

Toastmasters was the vision of Ralph Smedley, who founded the first club in Santa Ana, California. While working for the Santa Ana YMCA, Smedley observed that many young men struggled with communication and felt that providing a place to practice speaking would help improve their confidence. The first meeting was held on 22 October 1924 and it was a huge success! Clubs were quickly founded in nearby towns and, by 1930, Toastmasters had become an International Organisation.

Toastmasters in New Zealand

The First Club

In 1960, the Readers Digest published an article called “Accustomed as I am”. In this, the writer described the rising popularity of Toastmasters and the techniques that were being used to help people become better communicators. The response to this article was overwhelmingly positive and enquiries soon poured into the Home Office. Because of the global reach of this magazine, people from all across the world were writing to Toastmasters International and asking how they can start their own club.

Once it reached New Zealand, one of the people who read this article was Tim Tomlinson from Dunedin. While attending an Institute of Management course, he took the opportunity to persuade his audience to start a Toastmasters cub. Much to his surprise, they took the idea seriously!

The first public meeting was held on 11 September 1961, with the Dunedin Toastmasters Club launching two days later. By July 1962, they had reached charter strength and became the first Toastmasters club in New Zealand.

The Second Club

While this was happening, a second club was forming in the north. Jolyon Firth of Auckland had heard about Toastmasters, and upon finding there was no club in his city, decided to start one. Using his business and community connections, he was able to bring together a group of people that would form Auckland Toastmasters. Jolyon became the charter President in April 1963.


Before long, clubs began to form in Hamilton, New Plymouth, Christchurch, Rotorua and Wellington. By the end of 1965, there were 11 clubs in New Zealand. That same year, representatives from the clubs met in Wellington to form a Territorial Council.

The Flying Squad

The criteria to become a District was 35 clubs and 1000 members. By the early 1970’s the Territorial Council was edging closer and closer to this target.

To help us get over the line, Clive Pryme proposed setting up a “Flying Squad”. The plan was to charter an aircraft and have a team fly to various centres across New Zealand to conduct public meetings and charter more clubs.

This was no easy task and required months of planning. News releases where sent out before visiting a town and a ground team was organised in the event of misadventure. In September 1971, the Flying Squad departed and successfully chartered a number of new clubs. In addition, the publicity inspired many people to learn more about Toastmasters, with some even forming clubs in their own towns.

To this day, the Flying Squad is one of the greatest marketing achievements within our District.

Becoming a District

By 1972, there were 43 clubs within New Zealand, with a membership of 1,120. During the Auckland Convention of that year, a letter from Buck Engle, Executive Director of Toastmasters International, was read out informing attendees that they had achieved District status and would become District 72.

Women members are welcomed

Up until the early 1970’s, membership of Toastmasters was restricted to men. In 1973, Toastmasters International gave clubs the ability to amend their constitutions and decide for themselves if they would include female members.
Although this may seem like an obvious decision today, at the time, it was meet with much discussion and debate. Originally, Toastmistress clubs were set up alongside Toastmasters clubs. Although these two groups shared many similarities in the early years and even ran contests together, they were always independent organisations and became increasingly distant as time progressed. In 1985, Toastmistresses adopted the name International Training and Communication (ITC) and also opened their membership to both genders, thus ending their association with Toastmasters.

One District becomes Two

Toastmasters clubs grew rapidly in New Zealand as people discovered the many benefits that membership offered. By 2017, there were 281 clubs within District 72. A decision was made to divide the District in half, with the Upper North Island becoming District 112. The Lower North Island and South Island would remain District 72, as it is tradition that the District with the first club maintains the original title.

This was put to the vote during the May 2018 Conference in Auckland and came into effect 1 July that year.

Past District Directors

District 72

1972  Terry Boon
1972 – 1973  Ray Morse
1973 – 1974  Sel Palmer
1974 – 1975  Clive Pryme
1975 – 1976  Peter Cooper
1976 – 1977  Derek Waite
1977 – 1978  Roger Pitchforth
1978 – 1979  John Fauvel
1979 – 1980  Dan Coomey
1980 – 1981  Alf Baker
1981 – 1982  Terry Bellamy
1982 – 1983  Les Hewett
1983 – 1984  Judith Bartlett
1984 – 1985  Martin Miller
1985 – 1986  David Gore
1986 – 1987  Mary Walker
1987 – 1988  Mark von Dadelszen
1988 – 1989  Chris Matthews
1989 – 1990  Len Jury
1990 – 1991  Russ Woods
1991 – 1992  Gaelle Deighton
1992 – 1993  Ian Mitchell
1993 – 1994  Laurel Francis
1994 – 1995  Carl Horn
1995 – 1996  Glen Murphy
1996 – 1997  Leo Baxendale
1997 – 1998  Richard Logan
1998 – 1999  Jenny Latta
1999 – 2000  Joan Hook
2000 – 2001  Robyn Murphy
2001 – 2002  Joy Ackrill
2002 – 2003  Warwick Lowndes
2003 – 2004  Ray Wolken
2004 – 2005  Colin Perfect
2005 – 2006  Kevin Warwood
2006 – 2007  John Reimers
2007 – 2008  Geoff Trotter
2008 – 2009  Chrissy Meyer
2009 – 2010  Alun Chisholm
2010 – 2011  Denis McCord
2011 – 2012  Steve Bullock
2012 – 2013  Murray Coutts
2013 – 2014  Ellie Young
2014 – 2015  Kingsley Moody
2015 – 2016  Carol Mitchell
2016 – 2017  David Templeman
2017 – 2018  Sarah Bate
2018 – 2019  Celina Templeman
2019 – 2020  Diane Isherwood
2020 – 2021  Rob Woolley
2021 – 2022  David O’Brien
2022 – 2023 Kathryn Duncan
2023 – 2024 Glen Pearce

District 112

2018 – 2019 Toni Sharp
2019 – 2020 Neil Stichbury
2020 – 2021 Sharon Kerr-Phillips
2021 – 2022 Stephen Budai
2022 – 2023 Wendy Wickliffe
2023 – 2024 James Hippolite

South Island and Wellington Region

Email us:

Upper North Island

Email us:

Web Design by Brad Grootelaar. Suggest an edit here.

The information on this website is for the sole use of Toastmasters’ members, for Toastmasters business only. It is not to be used for solicitation and distribution of non-Toastmasters material or information.

DANNY : DE HEK LIMITED Hosting Services – Empowering Your Online Presence. © 2023 DANNY : DE HEK LIMITED. All Rights Reserved.