Meet The Team

Our Founder

Trevor Grice, MNZM, CNZM

Trevor is the Founder Director of Life Education NZ and has been in the Education Business for the past 30 years. He is the co-author of the best-selling book - The Great Brain Robbery. He assists throughout the public and private sector and has received several accolades for his work.

Our Patron

David Wale, CBE

David Wale has been involved with Life Education NZ from the very beginning. He was the chairperson of Life Education for a number of years before becoming the trusts' patron. David has also held a number of positions, including Chair of the Stock Exchange and managed the National Provident fund. He is currently the chair of Jarden Morgan.  He lives with his wife, Annette, and has three daughters.

Board of Trustees

Chair: Maria Johnson

Maria has enjoyed considerable success establishing Little School here in New Zealand and more recently expanding to China. Maria has been an executive member of the Early Childhood Council (ECC) since 2008 and is currently the ECC President. In 2012 Little School won two Wellington Business Awards - Best Small to Medium Business and Maria was awarded Wellington Business Woman of the year.


Deputy Chair: Chris Kirk Burnnand, MNZM

Chris has operated his own business since the age of 18 and has developed it into a medium-sized property owning company. He has had a long involvement in community based organisations and is also a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.


Trustee: John Benton

John is managing director of the Jarden Corporation Limited. Jarden was established in the 1970's and developed into New Zealand's largest share broking and investment banking organisation at that time. He has been a director of a number companies in activities encompassing finance, property, insurance broking, mining and meat processing. John has been a supporter of Life Education for many years and joined the Board in 2013.


Trustee: Rob Simcic

Rob has been involved in Rural & Commercial banking for the last 14 years, working in various regions and roles across NZ from Northland to top of the South, where he is currently Regional Manager for ANZ Marlborough. Rob joined Life Ed in 2012 and is the current Chair of the Marlborough Trust. He lives on a small vineyard just out of Blenheim with his wife Niki and four children aged between 6-12 years. Rob holds a degree in Applied Science from Massey University.


Trustee: Pat Seymour, OBE

Pat is involved with Life Education in Gisborne, serving as the chairperson for over 20 years. Pat re-joined the national board in 2012, having already served on the board for 6 years from 2003-2009. Pat has been involved extensively in both local and national community organisations. A Gisborne District Councillor since 2001, Pat is comfortable working with both high level professionals and grass roots organisations.


Trustee: John Spring

John was born in Whakatane, and has been married to Philippa for 27 years and has 3 children aged 17, 15 and 13. He is managing director of the Beacon Media group which includes newspaper and printing businesses. His father started the Whakatane Beacon in 1939. He is a passionate golfer (9 handicap) and is involved in the community as a golf club committee, Board of Trustees at St Joseph’s School, and a volunteer helper at the Catholic Church. John has been chairperson of the Eastern BOP Life Education Trust for 14 years and is a Life Member of Life Education Trust (NZ).


Trustee: Graham Lawrence

Graham is a Chartered Accountant and Tax Manager of Bellingham Wallace in Auckland. Graham is a Senior Member of the Financial Services Institute of Australasia, Associate of the New Zealand Institute of Management, Chair the Bellingham Wallace Management Group, Chair and independent on a number of boards. Graham has three children and enjoyed seeing Life Education teach at his children’s school before joining the Board.


Trustee: Aisha Daji Punga

Aisha is the managing direct of Aisha&Co a consultancy focusing on commercial success through creativity. With a genuine passion for social enterprise and transformational growth, Aisha has lead organisations and initiatives to ensure a focus on socially sustainable future whilst maintaining profit objectives.  She is currently establishing the “The PHAT food movement” with the goal to get “high risk communities to love energy with nutrition”. Her executive career includes Frucor, Vodafone and Tip Top Ice Cream and in 2014 Aisha was recognised as NZ’s Marketer of The Year.  She was also one of the founding members or the LET’s Manukau South Trust (now successfully merged into the Counties Manukau Trust).


The National Office Team

Situated in Wellington the National Office team support the community trusts, are responsible for programme development, the professional development of educators and the overall philosophical and strategic direction of Life Education in New Zealand.

The team are:

Chief Executive - John O'Connell 
John is responsible for the overall management of the organisation which includes building and supporting its internal framework, the acquisition of sponsors and funders and organisational development.

Finance Manager - Penny Robertson 
Penny manages our finances and provides each of our trusts with financial support and advice.

Project and Partnerships Manager - Jess Limbrick 
Jess is responsible for our digital projects, new and existing partnerships and fundraising and commercial opportunities.

Programme and Development Manager - Jo Mortimer 
Jo oversees programme development, resource development and Educator professional development.

Education Support Manager - Michelle Dow 
Michelle oversees the initial training for our Educators around the country, she supports programme development and oversees the upgrade of our mobile classrooms.

Marketing and Communications Specialist - Emma Golebiowski (Maternity Leave - May 2018)
Emma looks after the marketing collateral, social and traditional media and internal and external communication.

Accounts Officer - Michelle Phillips 
Michelle oversees the day to day running of the office, assists with accounts and is responsible for all general administration and resource distribution.

Trust Support - Robyn King 
Robyn provides fundraising, finance and HR advice and support to our regional volunteers and Trusts.


Life Members

Life Education is very proud to have the following life members:


Val Whyte

Ian Holyoake

John Spring

Stephen Burnett


Joslyn Tjeerd

Lance Hutchison, QSM

John Beattie

Bruce Darvill, QSM

Rob Wilton


Trevor King, QSM*

Robyn Paterson

Margaret Radford

Peter Cox

Roy Savage*


Michael Cooney, QSM

Pat Seymour, OBE

Paul Cressey, ONZM

Jeanette McIntyre


Steve Graves

Brian Shearer

Steak (John) Goodin, QSM

Graeme Pentecost     


Kay Crosby

Astrid Martin

Jo Coughlan

Ian McBride


Chris Kirk Burnnand, MNZM


* Deceased