About us

Our Board

The Business Hunter Board guides and oversees the activities of the organisation. Board members are drawn from a diverse range of businesses and industries across the region, contributing a wealth of insight and experience. 

Tony Rhodes 

President

Tony Rhodes is the owner and CEO of Mullane Group, which provides a range of trades services. Tony began his plumbing apprenticeship with H.L Mullane at the age of 15 and bought the company from the Mullane family 20 years later, after working through management and leadership roles. Tony is also a founder and part-owner of Prophase, an electrical contracting company, and The Mullane Foundation, a registered charity providing hands-on help in communities without access to clean water, sanitation, shelter or electricity. He is a past president of both Newcastle Rotary Club and Newcastle Master Builders Association and has served on advisory boards for SIDS and the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children.   

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Lauren Eyles

Senior Vice President

Lauren Eyles is a Communication and Leadership Consultant in her business Heartful Coaching. Lauren is passionate about the growth and success of the Hunter region and creating opportunities for the next generation. She has held leadership roles with and led communication for the Port of Newcastle, Hunter Water and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, and was previously the Marketing and Grants Manager for the £321 million redevelopment of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London. As a qualified coach, Lauren helps leaders, teams and job seekers navigate change and complexity and communicate effectively. She has recently completed an MBA at the University of Newcastle.   

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Peter Gesling

Vice President

Peter Gesling is self-employed as a director, facilitator, trainer and mentor. A former Chair of Newcastle Airport Board, Peter now serves as the Board Ambassador and Corporate Mentor. He has a personal consultancy trading as petergesling.com and has extensive experience as a non-executive Director on not-for-profit, community, public and private boards across the aviation, legal, lifestyle, local government and tourism industries/sectors. Peter has spent his career working and living in local and regional communities, including the Hunter, Norfolk Island, Sudan, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and central and north-west NSW, assisting them to find their potential, recover from adverse conditions and celebrate their successes.

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Holly Martin

Director 

Holly Martin is a successful and practiced marketing expert with almost two decades of experience helping companies and professionals to become more engaging to their audiences through effective marketing. She runs a successful boutique marketing business, The Marketing GP, that has helped startups, small businesses, family businesses and multi-nationals seeking to lead their industry. She is a past President (2018) of Newcastle Business Club, and has board experience across a range of not-for-profit organisations such as the Hunter Academy of Sport, ConnectAbility and Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation. Holly is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.      

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Hennie du Plooy

Immediate Past President

Hennie du Plooy is the Chief Executive Officer of Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) and was Hunter Business Chamber President from 2018-2020.  Hennie has led PWCS through periods of strong growth and expansion as well as a material downturn in the coal industry requiring adaptability to cost pressures and customer demand for efficiencies. Hennie’s key interest is advancing the mutually beneficial relationship between local business and the Hunter community. Having a strong track record of positive community engagement, his contribution to Business Hunter has been to focus on how current strengths can be leveraged in the interest of sustainable economic growth that improves all aspects of the region's wellbeing. 

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Natalie Mitchell

Director

Natalie Mitchell is the Business NSW representative on the Business Hunter board and a director of both organisations. A Commerce graduate, Natalie is the founder of Capital Office Business Solutions, which provides advisory services to businesses in regional New South Wales. Her career in business management includes accounting and finance roles with Arthur Andersen, AGL and Dairy Farmers and leading sales and software design and implementation teams in Tokyo, Singapore and Chicago. Natalie is passionate about promoting and developing businesses in regional Australia and chaired Business NSW’s Regional Presidents’ Forum. She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors   

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Jim Garis

Director

Jim Garis represents the local chamber alliance members on the Business Hunter board. He is the founder of the Hamilton-based financial services firm The Garis Group, which provides tax advice, small business growth strategies, superannuation and wealth creation strategies. Jim’s recent focus has been on sharing his expertise with the Hunter community through his roles as a Business Hunter director, Treasurer of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, Deputy Chairman of The Newcastle Tourism Industry Group, committee member of The Newcastle Business Club, life member of Merewether Carlton Rugby Club and a strong supporter of Business for Good.

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Glenn Thornton

Director 

Glenn Thornton is the Executive Manager Projects, with the Port of Newcastle, overseeing a major infrastructure and capital works program designed to directly contribute to the region's economic prosperity and long-term sustainability. Glenn joined the Port of Newcastle from global engineering professional services consulting firm WSP, where he was the NSW Regional Director and Director Advisory for Australia. Glenn has successfully delivered major infrastructure projects totalling billions of dollars, with hands-on experience in advisory, planning, design, governance and project management. Glenn is also a former Hunter Business Chamber CEO who has strong relationships with senior leaders within business and government.

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Dianne Hamer

Director

Dianne Hamer is passionate about building a more inclusive community and ensuring people facing adversity, such as a disability, can enjoy fulfilling and meaningful lives. She has extensive experience working with youth, indigenous Australians, migrants, refugees, single parents, ex-offenders, people with disability, mental health conditions and addictions and helping businesses find the right staff by ensuring inclusive recruitment processes. Dianne has qualifications in Applied Science, Education and Business and has 30 years' experience in government and private sector employment services. She is an Honorary Commander at the RAAF airbase at Williamtown.

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Paul Tobin

Director

Paul Tobin is a partner of Sparke Helmore, a national law firm which started in Newcastle in 1882 and now has more than 870 people in nine offices around Australia, including Newcastle and Muswellbrook. Paul leads the firm’s national Construction, Projects and Infrastructure group, advising clients involved in infrastructure projects, building developments and the procurement of major plant and equipment. Paul has been involved with many of the Hunter’s major projects over the last decade. Paul grew up in Newcastle before spending time working at Clayton Utz in Sydney and Taiwan. His specific focus as a Board member is in the planning and provision of economic and social infrastructure to drive the future of the Hunter region.