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Elected representatives

Note: If you would like to contact the NGO Council please contact the Secretariat in the first instance.


There are 13 elected representatives in 6 categories

Disability support services: Marese McGee & Sonia Thursby

Māori health: Beverly Te HuiaCarole Koha, & Maria Baker

Mental health and addictions: Barbara Disley & Leilani Maraku

Pacific health: Pesio Ah-Honi & Silao Vaisola-Sefo

Personal health: Frances Blyth & Graham Walker

Public health: Jason Myers & Trevor Ihaka Simpson

You can read more about them in their profiles below.


Barbara Disley

Organisation: Chief Executive, Emerge Aotearoa

Sector: Mental Health & Addictions

Emerge Aotearoa was formed as a result of the merger of Richmond Services and Recovery Solutions. Barbara has extensive leadership and management experience in the NGO sector, and in the education and health sectors.

In the early stages of her career she worked for both disability and mental health NGOs, including a three year period living in a therapeutic community house supporting people. She has held a number of senior NGO sector roles, including Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation. From 1996–2002, she was the inaugural chair of the Mental Health Commission, leading the development of the first Mental Health Blueprint. From 2002 to 2007, Barbara was Deputy Secretary Ministry of Education where she had responsibility for special education.

Prior to returning to the NGO sector as Chief Executive of Richmond, she worked as a Principal Consultant for Cognition Education Ltd, an educational consultancy and charity, leading their research and evaluation team. Barbara is on the Board of Platform, the NGO sector peak body for mental health providers. She has a doctorate in education and in 2011 was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.


Beverly Te Huia

Organisation: Manager, Kahungunu Health Services

Sector: Maori Health

Tena koutou,

Kahuranaki toku Maunga

Ko Ngaruroro toku awa

Ko Takitimu toku waka

Ngati Kahungunu rawa, ko Ngaitahu toku iwi

Ko Mihiroa toko Marae

Ko Beverly Te Huia Ellison ahau

I have worked for a Māori Provider since 1996 and am very aware of the environment and struggles in which Māori Providers endure.  I understand that Māori Providers have unique access to our Māori Population and the strengths that contribute to better health outcomes.

I have experienced the different funding models in which Māori Providers have negotiated in order to provide care that is overly scrutinised and reported.

I am currently implementing an integrated model of care (Kotahitanga Whanau Model), which was developed within our service, which enables GP services and Māori Providers to work meaningfully with Māori Whanau.  This programme is in its second year in which we work with our 17,000 enrolled population (GP service).

I look forward to working collaboratively with the NGO Council and offering 20 years of experience, at every level that a Māori Provider services.

Current Positions:

  • Mother of three very active children
  • Acting CEO for Kahungunu Health Services
  • Chair Nga Maia Māori Midwives Aotearoa
  • Integration Manager for Kahungunu Health Services and Totara Health
  • Kahungunu Community Breastfeeding coordinator
  • Steering group member of Priority Population Committee of the Hawkes Bay Health (PHO)
  • Member of Workforce Development National Committee for Maternity Services
  • Founding Member of ‘Midwives on the Move’ New Zealand and Australian Midwives providing a Humanitarian support through training Specialists, Midwives, Drs and Nurses in the Gobi Province of Mongolia, Maternal and Infant health.Traveling to Mongolia 2014 and 2016.Planning support in the South Pacific.

Carole Koha (formerly Maraku)


Organisations: Pou Kaihautu (CEO), Te Waka Whaiora Trust (Porirua) and Te Menenga Pai Trust (Newton)

Sector: Maori Health

Carole is the Pou Kaihautu at Te Waka Whaiora and Te Menenga Pai Trust, both services funded through Capital & Coast District Health Board.

Carole brings experience working with DHBs and Māori providers within mid-Central region.

Carole has a range of expertise that include nurse, manager, auditor and health trainer; she has been within the health sector for over 30 years. She actively advocates on issues that still have disparities towards health outcomes for Māori. Carole is a strong believer in whanau ora and how the whanau and communities need to step up and become more responsible in making positive changes for Māori in ensuring we receive the same benefits as other people residing in Aotearoa.

Carole was a member when the NGO Working Group (now the NGO Council) was first established in 2003, she resigned in 2013 as a Māori health representative, and was re-elected in October 2016.


Frances Blyth

Organisation: Chairperson, Dementia Wellington

Sector: Personal Health

Frances lives in Wellington and has a background in the public sector (mainly Health, Education, Justice) that includes policy, service design and delivery, and management roles. She has also worked in international trade policy, run the national office of a parent support community organisation, and worked with an international human rights organisation in France.

Frances has held governance roles with community organisations since the 1990s. She is currently Chair and Trustee of Dementia Wellington, Vice Chair and Trustee of Dementia NZ and is a Trustee of Incredible Families.

Frances joined the Health NGO Council in mid-2018.

Frances believes that NGO community health services play an important role in supporting people to live well. She has a special interest in access issues and continuous service improvement. Frances looks forward to helping the Council advocate for the greatest possible support for community health services.


Graham Walker

Organisation: MS Taranaki Inc; Executive Member, MS New Zealand

Sector: Personal Health

I am married to Julie, who is a primary school teacher and we have two daughters, a son and 5 grandchildren. I spent 5 years at Massey University completing a Science Degree and I was a dairy farmer in Taranaki for most of my working life.

Community involvement is important to me. In my younger days I was into cycling and running and got involved in the committees of several local clubs and served on the national cycling body. I served for many years on school Boards of Trustees for my children’s school and received a national award for services to education as recognition.

In 2005 I was the proud recipient of a Citizens’ Award from the New Plymouth District Council in recognition of my work establishing an outdoor education trust, serving as a trustee for the building of the Taranaki Cycle Park, coaching school cycle teams, Chair of the local Domain Board and trustee for the restoration of a historic swing bridge.

When my son took up playing the saxophone at high school, I decided I could too, and this began a stint playing alto sax for me in a local swing band that lasted 12 years.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, so I sold the farm and bought a business in Whanganui selling and servicing farm bikes. I closed the business in 2018 which has enabled me to focus on my voluntary work addressing the needs of people who have multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions.

I joined the Committee of MS Taranaki Inc. and I have served as President for the last two years. In 2018 I was invited onto the Executive Committee of Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand. This position with MSNZ affords me a window on the situation and life experiences of people with disabilities throughout the country.

In 2019 I was nominated to a committee of the International MS Federation that engages people with MS in reviewing information. My eldest daughter is a medical researcher based in Auckland focused on neurological conditions and this has been very helpful to my personal education and in guiding my leadership and participation in the organisations I am involved with.

Through my own lived-experience of being a person with potentially advancing disability, and my voluntary service, I have a growing awareness of the issues that need to be addressed including equity of access to health services.

My Committee includes members with a range of disabilities not all caused by multiple sclerosis. We maintain a Fieldworker for 20 hours a week to visit the homes of people with neurological conditions throughout the Taranaki region. 


Jason Myers

Organisation: CE, New Zealand AIDS Foundation

Sector: Public Health

Dr Jason Myers graduated from the University of Auckland in 2010. A Social Scientist by training, his postgraduate work explored the everyday worlds of people living with HIV in New Zealand. His PhD research is published in a number of academic journals and edited book collections.

Following a two-year palliative care research fellowship at University College London, Jason returned to New Zealand and began working as a Policy Officer at the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF). By 2014, he was managing the organisation’s International Development programme. In this role, he worked with community groups around the Pacific to build capacity and improve the health and rights of gender and sexual minorities.

In late 2014, Jason moved into a leadership role with Oxfam New Zealand. Heading up the advocacy and campaigns function of the organisation he led work in climate change, gender justice and economic inequality in the Pacific. After honing his not-for-profit leadership skills, Jason followed his heart back to the NZAF in 2016 when he took up the role of Chief Executive. He has led a transformation in NZAFs strategic approach to HIV prevention and built an organisation that is fit-for-purpose and financially sustainable as it embarks on a mission of ending new HIV transmissions in New Zealand by 2025. He also Chairs the National HIV and AIDS Forum.


Leilani Maraku

Organisation: Manukura (CE) Mana o te Tangata Trust

Sector: Mental Health

Tena koutou,

Ko Tararua te maunga,
Ko Manawatu te awa,
Ko Ngati Raukawa te iwi
Ko Leilani Maraku toku ingoa​

Leilani is currently the Manukura (CE) for Mana o te Tangata Trust a Kaupapa Maori Mental Health & Addiction Peer Support Service in MidCentral. 

Leilani’s previous roles include Te Upoko O Nga Oranga O Te Rae a central region contract with district health boards supporting 18 Maori and non-Maori mental health & addiction providers with technical support, in-service training and enhancing Tangata whaiora voice.

Leilani developed and delivered adult youth and their whanau addictions peer support services throughout the Manawatu region, this also included providing services within the Manawatu prison working with male offenders (18-32) with mental health and addiction issues and their whanau on the outside. Followed by a joint initiative between four AOD NGO providers with the Department of Corrections Community Probation - Single point of entry for referrals that rolled out from MidCentral District Health Board. 

Leilani has the energy and drive and brings experience as mental health & addictions worker from consumer focussed platform, front line service delivery, administration and management. 

Present representation locally & nationally

  • NGO Connected Workforce Leadership Group MidCentral, Co-Chair
  • Turamarama Kaupapa Maori Suicide Prevention Roopu, Chairperson
  • Suicide Prevention Postvention Response Team MidCentral, member
  • Unison MidCentral, member
  • AOD Network MidCentral, member
  • Navigate Central, member
  • Te Kete Pounamu, member
  • Health Quality & Safety Commission MHA Quality Improvement Programme Consumer Advisory Group, member

Leilani is a strong advocate in ensuring that the voice of Tangata whaiora and their whanau are inclusive and being heard. Leilani believes it is paramount that we implement a whole system paradigm change across all sectoral sectors.


Marese McGee

Organisation: Chief Executive, Community Living Trust.

Sector: Disability Support

Marese has been a leader in the development of innovative, responsive services for people with a disability for over 34 years, yet she has the passion and enthusiasm for this sector as if she only started in it yesterday. This energy and drive is infectious and through her leadership and extensive networks and relationships, she inspires others to contribute to supporting people with disabilities to live the lives of their dreams.

As a leader, Marese has a high profile nationally and a well-deserved reputation, having worked at the sector’s highest level for a number of years; holding senior management and directorship roles in community mental health, disability support services, social work and funding and planning – resulting in a breadth of skills and networks across NZ.

In recent years, Marese has sought to involve Community Living Trust more actively in the wider community; championing strategic partnerships with key stakeholders. A highlight of this work has been Community Living Trust’s strategic sector partnership with Wintec, focussing on innovative projects that combine learning opportunities for Wintec students and tutors. This partnership has been fundamental in building the future workforce in the disability sector, as well as creating wider relationships in the community.

As Chief Executive of Community Living for the past 14 years, she has also represented organisations from within the sector at their peak bodies; i.e. NRID and NZDSN, and has led and chaired a number of national forums.

Marese holds a Bachelor of Social Studies (Hons) and a Masters of Arts from Trinity College Dublin, as well as a Bachelor of Applied Management (Strategic Management) from Otago Polytechnic.

Marese is superb at identifying the strengths of people and supporting them to maximise their contributions, through mentorship and her well-renowned open door policy.

A colleague says of her:

“She has challenged outdated thinking and continuously strived to ensure that people with a disability are able to achieve their dreams through connection to the community.” Fran Tilley, General Manager, Community Options


Maria Baker

Organisation: CEO, Te Rau Ora (formerly Te Rau Matatini)

Sector: Māori Health

I  trained as a registered nurse in the 1990’s, I bring a 20 year professional history in Māori health and  mental health (adult).  Added to by my doctorate research alongside Māori with lived, whānau and practitioner experience of mental illness and mental health services.

I am currently the CEO for Te Rau Ora (formerly known as Te Rau Matatini). I am a graduate of Te Rau Puawai program (Massey University) and I have urban and rural experience from living and working in grassroots and Māori communities, working with Iwi, Hauora and community based services.   I am pro NGO, I am strategic, and I am focused on driving the growth and strengths of the NGO sector alongside the NGO sector. 

I draw from extensive knowledge and understanding of Māori needs and values to assist the Health and Disability NGO Council in addressing the inequalities experienced in Māori communities.  I will provide leadership to connect Māori with the NGO Council and will promote the Māori voice at multiple levels to ensure Māori NGO development and success. 

I bring research, evaluative skills, in addition to  health workforce development  and business skills with an understanding of community, and the NGO sector.   It is my belief that the most important asset we have in the NGO sector is you, the people who work tirelessly in the NGO sector and in the communities you are serving. It  would be a privilege to be able to contribute what I can to help you become the best you can be - for yourself, for the future of  NGOs and of your communities.

Hutia te rito o te harakeke, kei hea rā te kōmako e kō?
Kī mai ki ahau, he aha te mea nui o te Ao?
Māku e kī atu, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.


Pesio Ah-Honi

Organisation: National Public Health Manager and Pacific Manager of Mapu Maia, Pacific Unit of the Problem Gambling Foundation of NZ

Sector: Pacific Health

Pesio is of Samoan descent and was born in Samoa and educated and raised in Auckland. Her mother is Asi Misa Ah-Honi  from the villages of Leulumoega Tuai and Safotulafai, Savaii and her father is Lauano Pesamino Ah-Honi from the village of Leauvaa, Upolu. 

As the Pacific Manager of Mapu Maia services (the Pacific unit of the Problem Gambling Foundation of NZ), Pesio heads a team of experienced and qualified Pacific clinicians, social workers and community health promoters nationwide.  In addition, she also oversees and leads the national Public Health team within PGF. 

For the past 24 years, Pesio has worked extensively within the Pacific Island community in the areas of social services, teaching, public health and community action. From 2006 to 2009, Pesio was an elected board member for the NZ Health Promotion Forum and was responsible for the public heath training of Pacific workers nationwide.

Pesio served as a board member for LifeChurch Community Trust in Manurewa and worked extensively in Auckland, serving the community in various community projects before moving to Wellington in 2014. 

She has worked in community development, training and workforce development and project management in Pacific public health for the past 15 years in the NGO sector – bringing extensive experience in Pacific media, social services and education. 

Past and present representation on boards and advisory groups for Pacific and non-Pacific agencies and services includes: 

  • Executive member of DRUA – National Pacific Addictions Workforce Network
  • Board member for LifeChurch Community Trust, 2006 to present
  • Elected board member of Health Promotion Forum NZ, 2010–12
  • Board member of Ka Mau Te Wero Community Projects, Glen Innes, 2003–06
  • Coordinator for the Otara Gambling Action Group and Glen Innes Gambling Action Group
  • Advisory group member for Addictions Pacific Group
  • Member of the Otara Network Committee, 2011
  • Leadership role in Servolution NZ, 2008–13
  • Advisory and mentoring role with Penina Health Trust, Auckland, 2008–11

Silao Vaisola-Sefo

Organisation: Chief Executive Officer, South Seas Healthcare Trust, Otara

Sector: Pacific Health 

Silao was born in the village of Gagaifo o le Vao in the district of Lefaga in Samoa. Silao was educated in Dunedin, having attended Otago Boys High School and is an alumnus of the University of Otago, graduating with a Bachelor Commerce majoring in Management.

Silao has a strong background in professional rugby, playing representative rugby at international level. Silao sees his background in professional sports as providing the building blocks to his professional career because of understanding the mechanics around high performance teams and the transferable skills he acquired have assisted with his leadership roles within the Pacific health sector.

Silao aims to ensure that a key part of his role as Chief Executive of South Seas Healthcare Trust is to strengthen and build relationships with community and partners to ensure healthcare developments are in line with future growth and aspirations. 

Silao has worked in health for almost a decade and has a wealth of experience and understanding in funding and planning, and policy development at District Health Board level.

Silao has also worked in the non-government sector and has worked in primary health care for almost five years.


Sonia Thursby, MNZM

Organisation: Executive Member, NZ Federation of Disability Information Centres Inc; CE, YES! Disability Resource Centre

Sector: Disability Support Services

As CEO of two charitable organisations in New Zealand, the first being YES Disability Resource Centre, a  multi-million dollar, multi-level community hub housing 16 different  organisations; the second being PHAB Association Inc, an International Organisation providing recreational and leadership support for young people with disabilities; much of my working life has been in the not- for-profit disability and youth sectors. 

As a leader in the sector I am driven, innovative and passionate about community, philanthropy, collaboration and making a difference. I am a CEO who leads teams by example and from a strengths-based approach. I have an excellent relationship management and governance track record at all levels of community and government departments.  I have reported to Governance Boards and Chaired Governance Boards. I am a leader who believes I lead a group of people who are all leaders in their own right. In the last 20 years working in the not-for-profit sector in New Zealand, I have built a reputation as a person who gets things done and delivers exceptional results.

I have worked in the disability, health and youth sectors in New Zealand for 22 years and prior to that in the UK. Some of the many boards I have been involved with as a Trustee or advisor include Primary Health Organisations, Health Board Advisory Committee and Council Strategic advisory groups. 

I co-designed one of the longest running most successful collective impact agencies in New Zealand ‘The Cube’.

I have extensive experience in:

  • Strategic planning to position the organisation as an innovative leader, including writing and delivering business plans and implementation plans
  • Budget and financial management and analysis
  • As an appointed member of the Waitemata District Health Board statutory advisory committee on Disability (2005-2010), I have a good understanding of the wider health sector
  • As an appointed member to Board of directors for ProCare Network North (2007-2010), I have an excellent understanding of PHOs
  • My role on the Executive of the New Zealand Federation of Disability Information Centres. (2014–present) gives me a New Zealand wide picture of the disability and health sectors.

Trevor Ihaka Simpson

Organisation: Deputy Executive Director, Health Promotion Forum of NZ


Sector: Public Health

Kia ora koutou. My name is Trevor Ihaka Simpson and I am of Tuhoe and Ngati Awa tribal descent.

I am the Deputy Executive Director for the Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand – Te Runanga Whakapiki ake I te Hauora o Aotearoa. Along with this leadership role, I am also responsible for the Māori Health Promotion Development Portfolio, teaching a range of health promotion and Māori Health courses, workshops and other workforce development activities.

I have worked in the health promotion field since 2006. Prior to this, I have worked in a number of areas including Crown Land administration, Treaty of Waitangi Historical Settlement work, Māori Social Development and Special Youth Projects.

I have an interest in Māori health, the health of children and young people, ecological health promotion, and the link between Hauora, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Health as a Human Right. I am committed to health promotion as a fundamental approach to improving Māori health outcomes and believe that strong Māori leadership in this field is essential for any success in this area. I believe my background, experience, and adherence to these kaupapa is such that I would be a useful addition to the NGO Council.

I am also a White Ribbon NZ Ambassador (Men Against Violence to Women), Co-Chair of the International Network for Indigenous Health Promotion Practitioners (INIHPP) and a proud, committed koroua to my two mokopuna. Tenā rā koutou katoa.


Justine Mecchia

Organisation: Principal Advisor, Office of the Deputy Director General Health System Improvement and Innovation, Ministry of Health