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Kaumātua, patrons and trustees

Arts Access Aotearoa is governed by a board of trustees. Richard Benge is the Executive Director and Dr Karen Webster is the Chair.


The Venerable Wiremu (Bill) Kaua ONZM, JP (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Horowai, Rongowhakaata, Rakaipaaka, Te Aitanga Hauiti)

Founding patron

Mel Smith CNZM, Wellington: BA, Graduate Henley College Oxford Senior Executive Programme, Templeton College Oxford Leadership Programme and Former Ombudsman.


Miranda Harcourt ONZM, Wellington: A leading New Zealand actor, Miranda Harcourt has worked with the Deaf community. She has also worked in the drama-therapeutic field with physically and intellectually disabled people. In addition, she has worked with men and women in prisons throughout New Zealand.

Patron, Arts Access Accolade

Dame Rosemary Horton DNZM, QSO, QSM, Auckland: Dame Rosemary Horton is a philanthropist and mentor for New Zealand charities. Her passion over 40 years has included disabilities, the arts and health. Dame Rosemary has been the patron of the Arts Access Accolade  and mentor to the organisation since 2014.

Dr Karen Webster, Chair, Arts Access Aotearoa

Dr Karen Webster, Chair, Auckland: is senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences at AUT and previously held part-time teaching positions at the University of Auckland. Her wide-ranging research interests focus on Māori and Pākehā governance models, sustainability, and the role of local government elected members. Karen’s 15 years’ experience in Auckland local government follows two decades of service in the New Zealand Army, ten years professional real estate, and nursing in the public and private sectors.

Erin Gough, Wellington: has strong links to the disability community locally, nationally and internationally, forged through her advocacy work. This includes legal advocacy through her role at Community Law Canterbury (2015) and human rights advocacy through her former role as Disability Rights Advisor at the Human Rights Commission (2015–2018). Erin, who has a BA/LLB (Hons, first class) degree from Canterbury University, has been an Arts Access Advocate since 2014. She has run advocacy initiatives and participated in advocacy-focused groups, contributing to submissions and discussions from a disability perspective. She currently works for the Ministry of Education.

Lynley Hutton, Wellington: has more than 20 years of leadership experience across the government, private and education sectors. Previously Investment Assessment Manager with the New Zealand Transport Agency, Lynley is experienced working in accounting and financial management in various roles. In addition to holding a number of management roles with responsibility for staff, associated budgets and oversight of very large infrastructure investment portfolios, she has been involved in a number of voluntary organisations’ committees and boards.

Te Aturangi Nepia-Clamp, Gisborne: of Ngāti Ruapani, Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Kahungunu and English descent. He has more than 40 years’ experience in promoting and delivering art projects, pioneering new thinking particularly in Māori art in public places and making art available for all. He is an experienced board member and a cultural arts consultant with a deep understanding of Māori tikanga. A Winston Churchill Fellowship recipient, he has received numerous art awards, commissions and grants as a carver and sculptor.

Stew Sexton, Wellington: has run his own company AbilityDis Consulting since 2010, specialising in promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities into all areas of society and focusing on accessibility training. Since 2010, Stew has been involved at a governance level with CCS Disability Action. He was Vice Chair of the national board from 2012 and 2014, returning to its Wellington governance committee and becoming the Chair in 2016. Also in 2016, he was appointed a director of Odd Socks Productions, which promotes and facilitates the use of New Zealand Sign Language in the arts.

Ruth Smithers, New Plymouth: An experienced senior executive and director of small business with an extensive background across both public and private sector organisations. Ruth has worked in health and social services development and delivery for 30 years, most recently as Deputy Chief Executive for Tui Ora, a large regional health and social services kaupapa Māori NGO. She has well-developed general and specialist management expertise, plus strong business acumen. Tertiary qualifications include a Master of Business Administration (Distinction) from Massey University.

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