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Te Rōpū Kaitohutohu Take Hunga Hauā

Disability Advisory Panel

Our six demographic advisory panels began their term in May 2023 helping us engage with Aucklanders from diverse communities.

The role of the Disability Advisory Panel

Panel members provide valuable feedback and advice from their lived experience.

Panel members will:

  • identify the issues that are important to people with disabilities
  • provide advice on our regional strategies, policies and plans
  • help us to effectively engage with people with disabilities.

This helps us build understanding and awareness of issues that are important to Auckland's diverse communities and helps us improve our engagement approach.

Read about the term of the new panel.

​Members of the panel

Members of the Disability Advisory Panel. 

Standing from left to right: Sam Smith (resigned), Gerard Martin, Chris Orr, Ryan Meechan, Toa Te Wheoro. Seated from left to right: Martine Abel-Williamson, Bonnie Robinson, Áine Kelly-Costello, Barry de Geest, Amy Hogan.

Áine Kelly-Costello

Áine Kelly-Costello (they/them) is a Pākehā, multiply disabled storyteller, researcher and advocate.

They've written or podcasted on a range of kaupapa from a transnational disability perspective, including climate justice, migration, independent living, accessibility and disability pride.

They work from the basis that the personal is political and they are committed to bolstering disabled people's access to and participation in politics at a local and national level.

They are a PhD candidate at the University of Otago where they are exploring what meaningful deinstitutionalisation for disabled people looks like in Aotearoa.

Amy Hogan

Amy has a lived experience of disability and has been navigating the health system on behalf of herself and the others while working as a researcher for the Cerebral Palsy Society of New Zealand.

She has worked as a disability advocate and campaigner in a professional role since 2010.

While she is undertaking a masters in science (School of Psychology), her interest in knowledge translation, equity, and system change throughout Aotearoa New Zealand has led to contributed to the wider disability community.

Barry De Geest

With over 40 years championing disability rights and inclusion, Barry de Geest is a recognised authority in the disability sector.

He has worked in various government departments and not for profit organisations before becoming the Director and CE of Renaissance Group, one of the largest supported living providers in New Zealand.

Barry is Chairman of Taikura Trust operational board, and a member of Workbridge board.

As a thalidomide survivor he has not allowed his disability to stop him from making changes for all society.

Gerard Martin

Gerard Martin is currently Relationship Manager, External Providers with Immigration New Zealand, for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

He manages a portfolio of external providers supporting refugees and migrants to settle in New Zealand.

Gerard is an accredited economic development practitioner, a former board member of the Institute of Public Administration of New Zealand (IPANZ) and has served on the Committee of the Auckland/Northland Amputee Society.

His areas of interest for the Disability Advisory Panel include addressing discrimination and unconscious bias affecting those with disabilities and advocating for the Universal Design approach to infrastructure and building design.

He uses an above-knee prosthetic leg after losing his left leg to a bone tumour in his early 20s.

Martine Abel-Williamson

In 2022 Martine Abel-Williamson was the recipient of the Inner Wheel Club of Howick of the Dawn Johnston Koru Award.

This award was established in 2018 to recognise and pay tribute to a resident of Pakuranga, Howick or Botany who has displayed perseverance.

Martine was also awarded the Queen’s Service medal (QSM) in 2018 for service to disabled persons. In the same year she was the Supreme Award winner at the Attitude Awards.

In 2016 she was presented with the Beamish Memorial Medal from Blind Citizens NZ for outstanding service.

She’s the president of the World Blind Union (WBU) and she also serves on the boards of the International Disability Alliance (IDA), Disability Connect, Blind Citizens NZ and the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind.

Her current work role is as Senior Human Rights Advisor at Te Kahui Tika Tangata/NZ Human Rights Commission. She previously served on Auckland Council’s Disability Advisory Panel.

Bonnie Robinson

Bonnie Robinson, MNZM, brings personal lived and professional experience of disability issues to the work of the Disability Reference panel.

Bonnie’s career has been within the not-for-profit social and health services sector, in a range of service delivery, management, leadership and governance roles.

She has worked at GM and CEO level for the past 20 years and is currently CEO at Presbyterian Support Northern.

At governance level Bonnie has been on the board of MS Auckland, Iosis, Workbridge and is currently the President of the NZ Council of Christian Social Services.

Bonnie is currently in the final stages of completing a doctorate looking at the place of values in leadership decision-making.

Chris Orr

Chris Orr was born in Dunedin and educated at Otago Boys' High School.

Chris lost his sight as the result of an accident in 1974. In 1975 He attended a course at the Royal New Zealand foundation For the Blind (Now trading as Blind Low Vision NZ.) Rehabilitation Unit.

At the completion of his course Chris was offered and accepted a role as a staff member at the Foundation For the Blind.

Over the course of his employment at the Foundation Chris has undertaken many and varied roles. These included fundraising, public relations and Access and Awareness Advisor.

The Access and Awareness Advisor role included many guest speaker opportunities and training sessions for technical institutions and public transport providers.

Chris has advised on many local and central government standards including: Aotearoa Pedestrian Network Design guide; requirements for Urban bus Standards. (RUBS); Shared Space pedestrian standard and Shared pedestrian and cycle paths.

Over the past 20 plus years Chris has concentrated on access to the built environment for people who are blind or have low vision (including roads, footpaths, and buildings).

His access work on the built environment included public transport facilities such as bus stops and rail stations.

One of Chris’s many highlights was advising on the design of the electric trains for the Auckland rail network.

Chris has had five Guide Dogs since he graduated with his first dog Adam in 1975.

Chris’s current guide dog is Noble a 9-year-old black Labrador retriever.

Chris retired in June 2022 after 46 years working for Blind Low Vision New Zealand.

Ryan Meechan

Ryan Meechan is a dedicated disability advocate with a passion for helping those in need.

With a background in speech-language therapy, he has worked in a variety of settings, including education and healthcare.

Currently, Ryan is pursuing his PhD at the University of Auckland, where he is focused on improving the assessment of language difficulties in people who have had a stroke.

Ryan's work is driven by his desire to make a positive impact in the lives of individuals with disabilities, and he is committed to advocating for their rights and wellbeing.

Toa Te Wheoro

As a self employed digital nomad and entrepreneur, Toa Te Wheoro, has spent many years travelling Aotearoa and the world.

He has worked with, and for a variety of organisations that aim to provide positive societal change and transformative justice.

Through his mahi he has been instrumental in the implementation of many important government projects and initiatives that strive to serve the people that he loves and supports.

Toa is grateful for his rich life experiences and now works primarily on assisting other Māori.

He especially focuses on assisting those from the LGBTQIA+, neurodivergent and disability communities, so that they too can live beyond poverty and attain prosperity for themselves.

​Meetings of the panel

The Disability Advisory Panel holds scheduled meetings and a number of workshops with staff each year.

Scheduled meetings are open to the public.

For dates, agendas and minutes, visit Disability Advisory Panel meetings.

Get in touch with the panel

Email to:

  • attend a meeting
  • present at a meeting
  • find more information.

​How disability is defined

The New Zealand Human Rights Act defines disability as:
  • physical disability or impairment (such as respiratory condition)
  • physical illness
  • psychiatric illness (such as depression or schizophrenia)
  • intellectual or psychological disability or impairment (such as learning disorders)
  • any other loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function (such as arthritis or amputation)
  • reliance on a guide dog, wheelchair or other remedial means
  • the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing illness (such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis).

Demographic advisory panels terms of reference 


For the latest end of term report, see Disability Advisory Panel achievements 2016 to 2019.

Meet our advisory board members

Back row (from left to right): Gerard Martin and Ursula Thynne
Front row (from left to right): Martine Abel Williamson, Renata Kotua, Jason Boberg, Kramer Hoeflich, Bonnie Robinson.

​Bonnie Robinson

Bonnie Robinson has more than 20 years' experience working in the community social services sector.

Her roles have included policy analysis, research and advocacy, communications, and management. Much of this work has focused around services for older people and those living with chronic conditions and disability.

Currently Bonnie is chief executive officer at HBH Senior Living, which operates residential care, housing, and community day services for older people.

Bonnie has had a parallel career in governance, and is often called on to give workshops and presentations on issues relating to non-profit social services.

As someone with multiple sclerosis (MS), Bonnie understands first-hand the impact of negotiating life in Auckland with a disability.

She is married and has young adult children. Outside of work, she sings with a choir, swims and sews.


Chantelle Griffiths

Chantelle Griffiths is a vision-impaired professional who works at Blind Low Vision NZ.

She has held leadership roles within the Braille Authority of NZ Aotearoa Trust, NZ Braille Music Retreat and the Pasifika Braille Literacy Project.

Chantelle is a Be Leadership graduate and brings strategic thinking and policy skills, good stakeholder relations and strengths in training and mentoring.


Gerard Martin

Gerard Martin is a relationship manager with Immigration New Zealand, for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

He manages a portfolio of organisations that support skilled migrants and former refugees to settle in New Zealand.

His areas of interest includes addressing discrimination and unconscious bias affecting those with disabilities and advocating for greater accessibility in infrastructure and building design.

Gerard leads the transport sub-committee for his local residents association where he advocates with Auckland Transport and the local board for improvements to pedestrian and traffic safety.

He is a former board member of the Institute of Public Administration of New Zealand (IPANZ) and has served on the Committee of the Auckland/Northland Amputee Society.

Gerard uses an above-knee prosthetic after losing his left leg to a bone tumour in his early twenties.


Jason Boberg

Jason Boberg is the co-founder and creative director of social impact agency Activate.

A proudly disabled film director by trade, Jason has a disability rights and justice focus to his work. This includes ethical representation of disabled people in decision-making and media.

He is an advocate for disability rights in the climate movement, both locally and internationally.

The founder of Sustained Ability, he advocates on behalf of people with disabilities at the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Human Rights Council, and Framework Convention on climate change.

He is passionate about supporting the next generation of disabled decision makers to understand the expertise and [definition pattern] whakapapa of our disabled community.


Kramer Hoeflich

Kramer Hoeflich was born and raised in the Cook Islands on the island of Rarotonga. When he was 15, a spinal cord injury changed his life and brought him to New Zealand.

He has faced many challenges and overcome a lot of barriers to become the person he is today. This helped him discover a passion to work alongside young people of all abilities, cultures and backgrounds, to make a difference within the community.

Kramer has a strong focus on equality, inclusion and diversity, which is reflected in the projects, events and boards is involved with.

He is currently a team leader at Vaka Tautua and is a strong voice for both the Pasifika and disability sectors.

Kramer's ultimate goal is to lead from the front and become Minister for Disability Issues.


Martine Abel Williamson

Disability advocate, accessibility consultant and policy advisor Martine Abel-Williamson QSM, has held numerous governance and leadership roles in the disability area.

These include treasurer and strategic lead for the World Blind Union as well as Asia-Pacific Regional UN Advocacy Network coordinator.

She has also held governance roles with the Workbridge Council, the Guide Dog Society, Disability Connect, Independent Living Service, and worked at Auckland and Manukau local councils.

Martine is usually accompanied by her guide dog, Westin.


Rachel Peterson

Rachel Peterson is the Community Relationship Manager at YES Disability which includes being the project lead of Parenting with a Disability New Zealand.

She has lived and worked in the health and disability sector for over 30 years, and as a returning panel member, brings experience and strong work networks.

Last year she was chosen to attend the four-day International Initiative for Disability Leadership (IIDL) conference in Washington DC where she spoke about her passion for youth with disability, leadership and succession planning.

She believes in using creative solutions and cultivating relationships to enhance communities. She has a love for design, with a particular interest in eco-design and accessibility.

She has two daughters, and in her younger days she also played wheelchair basketball for New Zealand.


Ursula Thynne

Ursula Thynne is profoundly deaf, but comfortable using both spoken language and New Zealand Sign Language. You will often see her with hearing dog Casper.

She has a history of working with the deaf community in social services, youth development and education as a qualified youth worker and teacher of the deaf.

Currently, she works full-time as a teacher for Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education New Zealand.

Ursula is a proud Aucklander who has lived in central Auckland for the past three years. Prior to that she lived at Piha, west Auckland for 12 years. She has a son currently doing NCEA Level 1.

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