VASS has a CEO and staff, based in Wellington, who are supported by a Board of Trustees. The Board comprises of eight members who are elected annually.

Our Board

President: John Grant

John Grant is General Manager of SkillWise which is based in Christchurch. SkillWise provides community participation support which includes training, education, leisure and recreation opportunities and links to voluntary work and employment opportunities, for adults who have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. As well as his role as GM of SkillWise John holds a part-time lecturing position, at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, on the Bachelor of Applied Science course (disability specialisation). John has worked at Skillwise since 2005, and began lecturing in 2008.


Vice-President: Karen Covell

Karen Covell is Chief Executive of Progress to Health which is based in Hamilton. Progress to Health is a community based organisation providing mental health and disability support services throughout the Waikato, Taranaki and Taupo. Progress to Health's vision is that all people with mental health and associated disabilities are supported holistically to maximise their potential. Karen has worked in the health sector for the majority of her career and has been at Progress to Health since 2004. Prior to which she was the CE at Epilepsy New Zealand. She has been in a member of the VASS Board for three years, of which she has been Vice-President for the past two. She is also Chair of the Waikato District Health Board mental health local advisory group, a member of the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand, an associate member of the New Zealand Institute of Management, and the Not-for-Profit Network.  Outside of work, Karen is a gym instructor at her local gym in Cambridge, and enjoys spending time with her greyhound, Fox, and her partner Ian.


Michelle Sharp

Michelle Sharp is the Chief Executive Officer of Kilmarnock Enterprises which is based in Christchurch. Kilmarnock was established more than 55 years ago and now employs more than 80 staff, with its core purpose being to employ and support individuals with intellectual disabilities, so they can realise their full potential within the communities they live in. Michelle has been with Kilmarnock for the past four years where she originally started out as the business development manager. She has now been CEO for the past 18 months where she has been able to put her background in business and the telecommunications sector to good use. Away from work Michelle likes to spend time outdoors with her family and is a keen runner.


Lynda Millington

Lynda Millington is Chief Executive of Interactionz which is based in Hamilton. Interactionz is committed to assisting people with disabilities, with support from their families/whanau and communities, to lead lives that have meaning to them. Interactionz work is about interacting with people and communities, and to enable this the Trust has developed a way of working called Person Driven Practice. Alongside the services Interactionz provide to enact this practice is a transformational framework that is used by Interctionz to change the thinking and behaviour of staff. Lynda has been involved with Interactionz since 1999 when she was appointed CE, and she has been a VASS Board member since 2000, having held both the Vice-President and Treasurer role in that time.  When not working her passion is travelling, with a major overseas trip on the cards every two years, inbetween which she fulfils her other interests tramping, social cycling, reading and cooking.


Glenn Murtagh

Glenn Murtagh is Service Development Manager for Pact which is based in Dunedin. Pact is a support organisation for people, with a wide range of services including Day programmes, vocational services and community participation to supported accommodation services for both the intellectually disabled and for people with mental illness. PACT operates in Otago, Southland, the West Coast and have a small presence in Christchurch. Glenn began work at PACT five years ago, and his responsiblities include managing client programmes in Otago and developing services. Previously he worked for Housing New Zealand, prior to which he spent a considerable number of years in the New Zealand Army. He has been a VASS Board member for three years. As a father-of-five he is also on his local high school Board and has been managing Otago rugby teams for the past seven years.


Tom Ringrose

Tom Ringrose is Chief Executive of the Disability Resource Centre (HB) Trust which is based in Hastings. and operates in the Napier and Hastings area. Established in 1983 the Disability Resource Centre offers support and assistance to enable disabled people to be fully included in their communities. Tom has been CE at the Trust since 1997, bringing with him a vast amount of public sector experience. He has a very strong interest in community, especially with-in the disability sector. As father to two grown-up children and granddad to two, family plays a large role in Tom's life, along with travel. He has been a member of the VASS Board since 1998.


Mike Noonan

Mike Noonan is Executive Trustee of Coromandel Independent Living Trust and Chairperson of the Supported Life Style Hauraki Trust. Both organisations, based in Coromandel Town and Thames respectively, aim to provide support and education for people with varied abilities, disabilities and disadvantages. CILT’s mission is to enhance the well-being of all people in the local Coromandel community with initiatives for young and old including the provision of affordable social housing for those on low incomes and the elderly. SLHT aims to remove barriers to independence by providing a community integrated service for those with mixed abilities, through the maintenance of flexibility and versatility in service provision. Outside of work Mike and his wife Alison Carter maintain their block of native bush, whilst nurturing their olive grove which annually provides them with sufficient oil for the needs of their kitchen and also for local sale. Originally from Sydney, Mike has a background in advertising and the media.


Claire Pye

Claire Pye is the General Manager of Pou Whakaaro which is based in Whakatane. Pou Whakaaro offers a range of free courses and activities to people living with a disability and/or mental illness in Whakatane and Kawerau.  Courses include community led education, a peer support service for people who experience mental illness and/or addiction and micro business support. It also offers support, advocacy and information to families of people who have someone with an experience of mental illness. Claire has been General Manager at Pou Whakaaro since 2008 and came on board following a stint at Whakatohea Iwi School and Health Services in Opotiki as Mental Health Team Leader. In her spare time Claire enjoys spending time with her whanau, gardening and taking in the great outdoors.


Kaumatua: Des Tahatika

Des Tahatika has been VASS Kaumatua for nine years. He works at Enrich + in Te Awamutu. Enrich + offer a comprehensive range of services specifically designed to support people whose lives have been disadvantaged by an intellectual or physical disability, injury, illness or through circumstance, and work with each individual to help them achieve their aspirations.


Our Staff

Tess Casey, CEO

Tess Casey is the Chief Executive Officer of VASS and is based in our Wellington office.  Tess began working at VASS part-time in 2001, and was appointed to Chief Executive in 2008. Tess describes one of the highlights of her role as working with VASS members who she admires for their commitment to making a difference to the people they serve. She also values being involved with an organisation that is committed to innovation and learning with an emphasis on always looking at new ways to do things. Tess has a background in communications and community development, with a strong interest in organisational development and how organisations can be supported in their work.


Deb Stringer

Deb Stringer joined VASS as Communications and Marketing Officer in September 2013. Before taking on the role Deb worked as a Communications Assistant for the New Zealand Police Association so is looking forwad to taking on new and exciting challenges and learning more about the Not for Profit sector. During her downtime Deb likes to spend time with her family, exercise and is also a volunteer phone counsellor for Youthline Wellington.


Wendy Osmond

Wendy Osmond joined VASS as Office Adminstrator in April 2014. Prior to joining us Wendy worked for the Ministry of Justice as a Community and Programmes Senior Adviser, so is looking forward to transferring some of the skills she learnt there into her new role - as well as gaining new ones. She is also looking forward to interacting with our members and learning more about the Disability Sector. Away from work Wendy enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter as well as gardening and travelling.






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