Our People Ō tātou Tāngata

Our Board

Nigel Brereton (Chair)

Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, and a member of the Institute of Directors.

Nigel has a commitment to the wellbeing and development of Tai Tokerau.

He has lived in Whangārei with his family since returning from his OE in 1999. Nigel has three adult children and has been married to Helen since May 1991.

He enjoys getting outdoors in the north, especially on his mountain bike. Nigel has recently completed seven years on the Sport Northland board, the last three as chair.

Nigel is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, and a member of the Institute of Directors. He has been a Chartered Accountant since 1991, recently retired as a partner in Russell Turner Chartered Accountants. He has just completed his Bachelor of Counselling.

Paula Kearns (Deputy Chair)

Bachelor of Commerce (Auckland University), Chartered Accountant of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, and a Chartered Member of the Institute of Directors New Zealand.

Paula has worked as an executive and a non-executive director over the last 15 years.

She has diversity of experience across a range of sectors and is currently in governance roles with:

  • Landcorp Farming Ltd – Director and Chair of Audit and Risk Committee
  • Mount Wellington Trust Hotels – Chair
  • Ministry for Environment – External Member Audit and Risk Committee

Previous governance roles include NZ Rugby League, NZ Avocado, Ara Taiohi, Foundation North, and NZ Football and previous leadership roles include Youthtown Inc and Canoe Racing NZ. 

Paula lives with her husband on their 8ha avocado orchard in Maungakaramea and she enjoys horse riding in her spare time. Her large whānau includes seven adult children and eleven grandchildren. 

Steve Armitage

Masters of Arts (Hons) in Political Science (University of Auckland).

Steve is of Ngāpuhi descent with strong familial connections to Whangārei and the Far North.


Steve is Managing Director at Daylight, a strategic consultancy specialising in major events, tourism and business events for the betterment of local communities, visitors and businesses.


He was previously General Manager Destination at Auckland Unlimited, the region’s cultural and economic growth agency, where he had oversight of tourism marketing, destination management, major events, business events and international education.


Steve conceived and led the development and execution of the globally-recognised Destination AKL 2025 Strategy, which emphasises destination management and sustainability, underpinned by sector engagement to strengthen cross-sector advocacy for Auckland as a global tourism destination. 


Steve oversaw the development of Auckland’s major events portfolio, including the Cricket World Cup, 36th America’s Cup, FIFA Women’s World Cup and Rugby World Cup. He also led the Auckland Convention Bureau to grow Auckland as a premium destination for business events in domestic and international markets.


Steve has previously worked in the New Zealand Government as a strategist advising the government on a range of portfolios, including tourism.


Steve is currently the Chair of Business Events Industry Aotearoa.

Hetty Van Hale

BA in Linguistics (Victoria University), a post-graduate Diploma of Information Science (Riverina Institute, Australia), and a Certificate in Company Direction from the NZ Institute of Directors.

Hetty is a professional director with extensive governance experience and over 30 years experience in senior executive roles with medium to large NZ companies.

She is currently a director of High Performance Sport New Zealand, a member of the Finance, Audit & Risk Committee of Sport NZ, and a Trustee of Central Lakes Trust.

She has been a past board member of:

  • Sky City Queenstown Community Trust
  • Badminton NZ 
  • Snow Sports NZ
  • Winter Games NZ Trust
  • Three Lakes Cultural Trust
  • Southern Lakes Arts Festival Trust
  • Wanaka Wastebusters
  • Mt Aspiring College Foundation
  • Lake Wanaka Tourism
  • Project Crimson
  • The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of NZ.


Hetty runs her own strategic planning consultancy aimed at small to medium enterprises. She has extensive experience in corporate communications and marketing and previous roles include:

  • Information Manager – Brierley Investments
  • Communications Manager – Carter Holt Harvey
  • Marketing Manager – Treble Cone for Tourism Holdings Ltd
  • Marketing and Communications Manager – Infinity Investment Group. 

Andre Hemara

Te Māhurehure-Ngapuhi, Ngāti Rangi-Whanganui

A recent appointment to the Northland Events Centre (2021) Trust in June 2022. Andre’s experience is wide ranging and compliments the vast range of skills on the Board.

  • Knowledge and experience within the Local Government environment and an understanding of the relationship between the Trust and Council
  • Experience leading and driving innovation, development of business and fundraising
  • Key stakeholder relationships and connections with significant community-based organisations, businesses, with a strong hapū and iwi rapport.
  • Evidence of strategic thinking and demonstrated professional practice

In addition, Andre is committed to other boards with a strong educational context which include Whangārei Boys High School and Te Tai Tokerau Educational Trust.

He enjoys participating in most sports to keep himself active and recently volunteered as a ref for junior rugby. 

Our Team

General Manager

Carina de Graaf

gm@nect2021.co.nz

Events & Marketing Manager

Rachel O’Gorman

events@nect2021.co.nz

Beverage & Events Manager

Petra Bennetto

admin@nect2021.co.nz

Facilities Manager

Sarah Snowden

fm@nect2021.co.nz

Operations Manager

Venue Coordinator

Katrina Williams

bookings@nect2021.co.nz

Beverage & Events Manager (Acting)

Beverage Coordinator

Executive Assistant

Operations Coordinator

Fiona Walters

Accountant

Our Naming Rights Sponsor

Our Supporters

Above and Beyond
Altherm Northland
ARC Security
Building and Fire
Busck
Cato Bolam
Climatech NZ
Fastsignz
Henwood Electrical
Laser Electrical
Libelle Group
North Cloud
Northland Document Solutions (Ricoh)
Potter Electrical
Recreational Services
Rothbury Insurance Broker
Ten4
Uber Real Estate
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