Our People

These are some of the awesome people we work with.

Aleesha Kostyrko-Jones

A story by Adrian Coysh

I first met Aleesha at a CCS Disability Action Youth meeting, preparing for their bi-annual conference which is called “The Gathering – Karanga Maha – Many Voices”. The Conference is to be held at Te Papa 8/9th of March, and will include two days of workshops (one of which I am facilitating), dialogue and presentations on key issues impacting disabled people – in particular young disabled people.

Aleesha mentioned that she was working as a chef in a hotel in Whangarei, which intrigued me, as I was wondering how she was able to manage that, working from a wheelchair.

Arizona Leger

“Where I’m from, is a place that is unknown to the eye, but built by the heart, a place, where impossible, is nothing but the two words ‘I’m possible.”

Awhimai Reynolds

Passionate champion for Maori Women – Story by Tony Cutting

Bailey Mackey

- Story by Himiona Grace

East Coast boy Bailey Mackey had an interesting childhood. He was bought up by his grandparents in Kaiti, on the out skirts of Gisborne. They, like many were a product of the urban drift where rural people and communities moved to the towns and cities for employment and the prospect of a ‘better life’. 

Ben Nolan

Running on Code - story by Julian Farquhar

Beneath the surface of every electronic device we use to guide our lives is code. Its something like the genetics of the modern world, the future is written by men like this.

Betty Ofe-Grant

PhD student studying minority issues and promoting the pacific culture - Story by Sonya Bloomfield
I’ve been interested in minority issues for a long time.  My husband is Tongan, so Pacific issues are especially close to my heart.  Which is why I was excited to meet PhD student Betty Ofe-Grant last year.

Bino Smith

Story by Tony Cutting

Yes, he is a former Mongrel Mob member, but now he is an absolutely world class multimedia artist and sculptor, having honed his skills as a set finisher for Peter Jackson on Lord of the Rings.

Blair Morgan

Musician, Banker, Teacher, Sales person to IT Manager and IT Career Champion 

– Story by Tony Cutting

Brett Keno

Brett Keno, - Sculptor, Brother, Father, Husband & Son.
Story by Tony Cutting

Brett is now living the dream, working from home with his beautiful wife making a fulfilling existence doing something he is deeply passionate about. 

Briar Grace-Smith

Finds inspiration under giant pohutukawa trees, fishing, cooking kaimoana and spinning yarns around the camp fire. 

Brittany McNaughton

Story by - Alex Lowrie

A journey overseas bought out Brittany's natural instinct to dedicate time, money and herself to making a change.

Carl Wairau

Developing Futures - Story by Sonya Bloomfield

Carl was born and bred in Napier in the Hawkes Bay and is from Ngāti Kahungunu.  It’s not too far from where his Father grew up in Nahuka, Mahia. 

Catherine Adam

Graphic Designer & Photographer - Story by Tony Cutting

Catherine was born in Wellington and raised in the coastal village of Eastbourne, across the bay from Wellington city. Her mother Shirley (Hopping) was a devoted full-time mum, she raised Catherine and her two older brothers Gareth and Grant throughout both primary school and secondary school education

Chief Tuaopepe John Ah Kuoi

Story by Sonya Bloomfield, photos by Delena Nathuran

It doesn’t surprise me that John is now in the business of helping people as his face lit upevery time he talked about this throughout our conversation. Whether it was helping his girls, his family, his rugby players, his bosses or his clients this is the thing that was peppered through his story and I am sure is the thing that makes him most happy.

Craig Wells

Story by Sonya Bloomfield, Photo by Big Fish Creative

Hunter, Gatherer, Father and making a massive difference to Maori and Iwi in Northland

Dan Walker

3rd year 5th form, IT Sales guru, and MBA.
Story by Tony Cuttng

When I first chatted to Dan I really struggled to comprehend how young he still is.  This is because this rangatira has achieved a lot in his first 30+ years and what is truly inspiring is he didn’t have what most people would regard as the best start.  

Daniel Panter

Story by Tony Cutting.

Kapiti Sport Photographer, World Cup Rugby Photographer, Business Entrepreneur who just  happens also to have shot One Direction and Justin Bieber as Sony New Zealand’s official Photographer.


Dara Dimitrov

Story by - Jane Matthews

Dara Dimitrov is a vivacious woman with diverse interests and talents. She has done everything from leading tours through Africa to keeping bees in Hamilton.  She holds two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree and is currently completing her PhD.  You get the feeling there is nothing she couldn’t achieve if she set her mind to it.

Dordi Moen

Artist and Weta Workshop’s lovely little piece of Norway - Story by Tony Cutting

Born in Bergen, Norway to parents who were both teachers and involved in art, it appears it was almost inevitable that Dordi would become an artist.

Dr Kathie Irwin

(Ngati Porou, Rakaipaaka, Ngati Kahungunu)
Educator, mentor, mother, granddaughter, singer and writer.

- Story by Tony Cutting

Dr Monty Soutar

Historian, Writer, Teacher helping connect our past with the future - Story by Tony Cutting

Dr Monty Soutar (PHD) has a wonderful story of how you can develop through discovering your past and then designing your future. 

Ellen Boss

For the love of Dance and Theatre

Story by Alex Lowrie

It’s always incredible when people are able to turn their passion into a career. For Ellen Boss, the future is looking bright as she endeavours to take her years of experience in the world of dance and performing arts and turn it into a career in stage production.

Ellis Bryers

A journey of self discovery that took him back to his roots
- Story written by Sonya Bloomfield

Erica Sinclair

- Story by Himiona Grace
Photography isn’t an easy business to get into. Not in this digital age that is. Everyone has a camera and many think they can take photos themselves. But there is a big difference between a good and an amazing image.

Gaye Austin

A story by Adrian Coysh

For the past two years I have had the privilege of serving on the Workbridge Council with Gaye Austin, who is the representative for Deaf Aotearoa; a Disabled Persons Organisation, or DPO as they are commonly known.

Gaye lives in Christchurch, but was actually born in Invercargill where she completed all her schooling.  When Gaye was 12 years old, and in Form Two, (that is year eight in today’s language), she was diagnosed with having hearing loss due to a hereditary condition, prevalent in her family.  The condition is caused by a mitochondrial A7445G mutation, and she progressively lost her hearing, until she was profoundly Deaf in her mid twenties.

Hemi Macgregor

The age old question of ‘what is art’ can be a tricky one to answer. 

Himiona Grace

Story by Tony Cutting

Beach Bum, Writer, Musician, Father of four and Director of one of New Zealand’s latest hit movies...

Hiona Henare

Filmmaker - Ngāti Raukawa, Muaūpoko, Ngai Tahu, Ngāpuhi

Hiona Henare is a true local of the Horowhenua. Her mother is Muaūpoko, the original iwi of the area and her father, a Ngati Raukawa minister was born and bred in Otaki. And her memories of her childhood are fond ones.
“We locals call home the Nua, or LV, or VN. But its official name is Levin. 70% of us were cousins, so there was never a dull moment. There were 6 local primary schools and one Intermediate. It was cool except for the 6 km walk everyday. [But] I remember all the teachers jamming on guitars while we sang Fleetwood Mac and Beatle songs at school assembly.” 

Indula Jayasundara

Diversity is a term that carries lots of baggage- some can hardly tolerate it while many call for it to be celebrated. Rarely however is diversity so effortlessly combined into a melting pot of an event as the Indian Holi and Chinese Lantern Festival that Waikato International Students’ Association (WISA) pulled off in early April. 

Jade Whipps

Kiwi country girl, with a down to earth, customer focused approach - Story by Tony Cutting

Jade initially comes across as your typical “Kiwi country” girl, a little reserved, very friendly and down to earth.  As her story unfolds you discover ‘her book’ contains a lot more inside than what the initial ‘cover’ appears to provide.

Jake Mills

Story by Adrian Coysh

Like many New Zealanders, who do not like to talk themselves up, Jake was shy and approached our interview with some trepidation.  However, ever since I first met Jake at the Be. Leadership graduation in 2013 I was struck by a maturity beyond his years. 

Jelena Bennett

Continuing the Bennett history of Maori into Psychiatry in New Zealand

Story by Sonya Bloomfield

What took Jelena Bennett down the path of psychiatry was almost pre-ordained for her in some ways.  “My grandfather was a doctor, my aunty is a doctor and they’re actually both psychiatrists.  But I never thought I was going to do psychiatry, I’d always wanted to be a doctor from a really young age but psychiatry is something I fell into later on in my life.”

John Dolores

A story by Adrian Coysh

John was only 2lb 1oz (about a kilogram) when at birth was only given 10 days to live, as in those days technology wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now.  He was one of five premature babies in the ward and he was the only one to survive.  In 1951 they did not know about the effects on pressure within the incubator, which was too great, and burnt the retina in his eyes.  As he was growing up they diagnosed slight eye impairment, and until he was about 15 he could read and write quite well.  However it was at that age that he had two attacks of Glaucoma, which resulted in the  building up of pressure within his eyes, and as there is no “hole” for the fluid pressure to escape.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, as it was so painful.  I couldn’t eat nor drink, and eventually they had to rush me into hospital where they pierced my eyes to allow the pressure to reduce, but the damage had been done.  So from the age of 15 onwards all I can do is tell light from dark.”

Jordan Thomson

Model maker, manufacturer and Weta Workshop’s very own “Rocket man” - Story by Tony Cutting

Joshua Iosefo

Inspiring and exciting minds - Story written by Alex Lowrie

The first time I met Joshua I was blown away at the enthusiasm and commitment he shows toward his passions. It’s almost incomprehensible how much he has achieved in his 20 short years.

Junior Toleafoa

It might sound clichéd but Junior Toleafoa was born to serve.  From a young age, JT was taught to serve others, to work within a team and to help develop people in a positive way.  Such values are obvious in his chosen career path. 

Kelly Wolfe

Celebrate Your Fur Kids - Kelly Wolfe Photography

Story by Nicole Sebestian

Growing up on a 300 acre bull farm between Hamilton and Morrinsville, Kelly Wolfe’s life in the countryside has not only shaped who she is but also led her to finding her life’s passion. 

Lennox Jones

Following his heart - Story by Sonya Bloomfield

Linda Cohen

Linda Cohen – story by Tony Cutting

From London to Wellington (Business Manager, Project Manager - Contractor)

Linda Gilbert

Combining creative skills and business knowledge for great results
– Story by Tony Cutting

Malavika Gopal

Originally from Wellington, Malavika completed her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Auckland with Mary O’Brien. In 2005, she was awarded the prestigious Patricia Pratt Scholarship and moved to Boston to study with Miriam Fried and Masuko Ushioda at the New England Conservatory. 

Matt Evans

Interview with Julian Farquhar

Matt Evans has taken the leap of faith and is following his dream of becoming a top kiwi photographer...

Mere Drake

Graphic Designer, Mum, Artist - Story by Tony Cutting


Miett Fear

An interview with Miett Fear : a woman of many worlds

Miria Royal

Living, working and playing to the fullest
Story by Sonya Bloomfield

Miriama Grace-Smith

- Story by Himiona Grace

Being an artist isn’t really something you just decide to do. Not in Miriama Grace-Smith’s world that is. It is something you’re born to do.


Nadeen Papali’i

Story by Sonya Bloomfield

Nadeen has harnessed her engineering skills and desire to make a difference to build a bridge towards educational equality in New Zealand.

Natalie Brunzel

My mother is a fourth generation New Zealander.  Like so many, she went on her OE, however hers lasted decades, rather than a few years. Only when we, my brother and I, became teenagers, did she decide to abandon the travel bug and come home.  Although I was born in South Africa I consider myself a Kiwi.

Having lived and been educated in South Africa, Egypt, Germany and New Zealand, I have wide cultural knowledge and speak English and German fluently.

Nathan Mansell

Story by Tony Cutting

Loving his role at Treasury in the coolest little capital in the world.

Patuki Harding

Story by Sonya Bloomfield

A Keen Researcher and Master of Curiosity

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day in New Zealand we all spoke a plethora of Pacific and Asian languages, starting with Te Reo Māori. We would have a truly rich and culturally diverse country. I recently talked with Pātuki Harding who surprised and amused me with his story of a love of people and languages. Where did this all begin? As a nosey and curious young child wanting to find out what his grandparents were talking about!

Paul Tobin

Tenacious Designer, Tutor and globally celebrated artist.
Story by Tony Cutting

Quentin Randall

Interview with Julian Farquhar

A life of the high seas ...

Rachel Petero

Story by Sonya Bloomfield

Global Tainui Ambassador - Empowering Leaders of Change in Business and Society 

As Rachel begins to recount her story, she proudly states that she is a born and bred Auckland Westie (West Auckland for those non-NZers). Her parent’s decision to move from the Waikato region to the big smoke was, according to Rachel, one of the first major milestones in her life. 

Red Nicholson

As a parent some of the greatest joy comes from watching your child learn something new. Sometimes being a parent is extraordinarily hard and I often admired teachers and have thought to myself, I could never be a teacher with all those kids. But I hadn’t connected the ‘why’ as to why people teach until I heard Red speak at the Our Place conference in Wellington recently.

He spoke of wanting to be a great teacher, and the process of teaching children to be great learners. It was an interesting moment and I wanted to find out more about what ‘great’ was.

Robert Oliver

Pasifika Chef with community as his key ingredient – story by Tony Cutting 

It is 1:30pm and I am very excited about the phone call I am about to make with Chef Robert Oliver.  This is the sort of story you love to write about, a story of a young kiwi boy who is taken to Fiji as a young man and learns all about Pasifika culture and the living connection to food.

Ryan Keen

A story by Adrian Coysh

Ryan was born in Invercargill, and is a third or fourth generation Southlander, however the ancestry on his father’s side is Ngai Tahu - as one of his British ancestors founded Riverton, and married one of the local Maori Chief’s daughters, so his heritage stretches a lot further back than that.  

His father is a Chartered Accountant and his mother is an English teacher.  Ryan was never pressured to do accountancy, but his sister went down that line too.  In fact, Ryan credits both his parent’s careers as contributory to his own – from his mother, he gained the “wordsmith” skills, and his father was involved in the legal side of Accountancy.

Shayma'a Arif

Story by Nicole Sebestian

A Voice that Needs to be Heard

“One of the things my mum did that really inspired me was when she began fundraising for displaced Syrian refugees in Jordan. She wasn’t part of a big organisation, she was just one individual who went there and actually did something about it. If she can do that without any help, then imagine what I can accomplish with a law degree.” 

Sifa Taumoepeau

You can picture him as a politician but that isn’t his chosen career.  Rather, Sifa Taumoepeau leads government relations, corporate social responsibility and community affairs across SKYCITY Entertainment Group’s New Zealand and Australian operations. 

Simon Phillips

Commerce and Maori Business specialist, Champion of Rugby League and true present day Maori warrior

- Story by Tony Cutting

Sina Wendt-Moore

With a beautiful smile and a gentle voice Sina has an ability to draw you in with conversation that both stimulates your thinking and your views. One where you feel like you don’t have to defend your viewpoints, they just are what they are. 

Sripriya Somasekhar

Behind the Research - Story by Nicole Sebestian

Listening over and over to stories of women suffering domestic abuse can be a heartbreaking job for anyone.  Yet, this is the exact role of a researcher. Pri’s strong focus on her mission to create awareness and hopefully a policy change makes her well-suited to be asking these sorts of questions. 

Steff Green

Steff Green is a published author, blogger, copywriter, illustrator, heavy metaller, alternative wedding celebrant, archaeologist, collector of medieval swords, house builder, lifestyle farmer, brewer of mead, ginger beer and wines...and she is also legally blind.

Suzanne Duker

Physiotherapist extraordinaire, sports nut and mother of three – story by Tony Cutting
I caught up with Suzanne in her intimate little Physiotherapy studio in Waikanae. As usual she greeted me with a relaxed smile and we settled down to find out all about her life and career to date.

Tanya Perese-Scott

- Story by Alex Lowrie
It was such an incredibly humbling experience to talk to Tanya; within the first few minutes I could tell there was something incredibly unique about her.

Thomas Haapu

Breaking new ground - Story by Tony Cutting

When you sit down with Thomas, you immediately realise you are in the company of a talented, bright, young family man with a genuine purpose and passion for what he does. 

Tola Newbery

Story by Himiona Grace

Ko Hiwi-o-te-Wera me Kiha nga pae maunga.
Ko Haurepo ko Wainui nga koawa.
Ko Te Umuroa te marae.
Ko Te-Poho-o-Parahaki te tipuna whare.
Ko Mihi-ki-te-Kapua te wharekai.
Ko Ngati Manunui te hapu.
Ko Paraki te tipuna.
Tae noa
Ko Ngāi Tūhoe

Tracie Pile

Tracie is a Teach First NZ participant currently in her second year of the programme, teaching te reo Maori at James Cook High School.

Tutekohi Waihi

Making change with Tikanga - Story & Photos by Himiona Grace

Ngati Porou/Whakatōhea

The son of a prison officer, Kohi grew up within prison villages. Firstly at Rimutaka in Upper Hutt, moving to Rangipo in Central North Island and then on to the Hawkes Bay. The families were predominantly Maori within the prison villages and tikanga and kawa were second nature to young Kohi. 

Wendy Neilson and Paul Curry

A story by Adrian Coysh

After the success of the Project 300 initiative in Christchurch, Minister Nicky Wagner was canvassing for another region to focus on and to raise awareness of the need to find employment opportunities for the disabled, via an initiative named EmployAbility.  Wendy Neilson, as President of the Disabled Persons Assembly BOP was contacted, and she spoke about the Employment Task Force initiative that they were leading, and this had a real influence in EmployAbility being launched in the BOP region.

Werner Kaffl

I discovered Werner’s beautiful photography while researching Facebook on Wellington based photographers for my Wellington Today project.  After starting to work with Werner based on some Facebook messages we finally met and I got to know more about this talented man.

William Furneaux

Tongan/Kiwi, Artist & Creator of Dragons….
Story by Tony Cutting

I caught up with William at Weta Workshop and chatted to him about his career journey to date.

Yvonne Kainuku-Walsh

Kia Orana

I am of Cook Islands and Irish descent. On my Kuki Airani side my whakapapa connects to the villages of Ngatangiia, Takitimu and County Tyron in Ireland. I am a registered nurse and have been specialising in sexual and reproductive health and adolescent health and development for more than 23 years.