Trustee Board

Heather Ruru - Te Whare Tikanga Māori Co-President

Heather joined the Trustee Board in November 2021. She is a life member of Māngere Bridge Playcentre, where she and her son began their journey in 2012. Heather was heavily involved in governance as a representative of her rōpū, Te Rito, then joined the NZPF Education team in 2014. Refocusing on her Association in 2016, she joined the Auckland Playcentres Association Governance board and served as President in 2017.  

Heather has a background in Māori Medium education and Māori language revitalisation. In her current role as General Manager of an Education Trust she leads the design and implementation of the Aotearoa New Zealand histories curriculum and supports manawhenua to ensure educational success by Māori, for Māori. She is a total immersion reo Māori teacher, social researcher and Māori language translator. 

Heather’s passion lies with reclaiming te reo Māori for her son and future mokopuna. She credits Playcentre with her accomplishments as a lifelong learner and her confidence as first and best teacher for her son, Cash.  

Te piko o te māhuri, tērā te tipu o te rākau  

Hayley Kirk-Smith - Tāngata Tiriti Co-President

Hayley joined the Trustee Board in November 2021. She began her Playcentre journey in 2010 with her first son, initially through a SPACE programme at her centre, Balmoral in Auckland, and then as member. Hayley quickly become deeply involved in centre life taking on many roles, including Centre Co-ordinator (President) after the birth of her second son. In 2014 she began Association and National governance work as a member and then work as Vice-President of the Auckland Playcentre Association until 2018. 

Hayley has an education background as a Primary teacher, including 9 years on the Balmoral School Board of Trustees. She is now working in the Real Estate industry. Career and Playcentre experience have given Hayley a broad skill-set in governance and management. 

Hayley holds dear the special character of Playcentre as a grassroots organisation that supports and prioritises parents and tamariki to grow alongside each other, building strong communities for whānau. 

Bes Lironi-Irvine - Te Whare Tikanga Māori Trustee

Bes joined the Trustee Board in November 2021. Her Playcentre journey began in 2014 at Glen Eden Playcentre where she attended with her two daughters, her niece and two nephews. During her Playcentre years Bes threw herself into the various centre roles, was a member of Kia Puawai o Te Akoranga and sat on the Te Akoranga Association Board as Kaitautoko, then Kaiwhakahaere and attended numerous national meetings.

Now living in the Far North, Bes home educates her children alongside two of their cousins, spends a lot of time outdoors and enjoys a life of learning and new experiences.

Andrea Webster - Te Whare Tikanga Māori Trustee

Ko Mauao te maunga
Ko Tauranga te Moana
Ko Mataatua te waka
Ko Ngai Te Rangi te iwi
Ko Ngai Tukairangi Te Hapū
Ko Hungahungatoroa te marae
Ko Andrea Webster toku ingoa

I began my Playcentre journey at Massey Playcentre, West Auckland in 2003 with my son who is now 20 years old. I have held various roles including President, Treasurer and Secretary. I was recently appointed to the Playcenter Aotearoa Board as a trustee.

I have strong governance experience across a range of sectors including Maori land trusts, Incorporated Societies, Post settlement governance entities, school boards and Community organisations. I hold qualifications in Teaching and Social Sciences.

I have expertise in Industrial Relations, Conflict Resolution and Governance. I have recently been appointed as the new mana whenua representative on the Tourism Bay of Plenty Board of Trustees. Tourism Bay of Plenty is a council-controlled organisation (CCO), which means my appointment has been determined by Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council and has been endorsed by Te Rangapū Mana Whenua o Tauranga Moana.

I look forward to supporting the future aspirations and strategic direction of Playcentre Aotearoa.

Andrea Webster

Fran Cowie - Tangata Tiriti Trustee

Fran began her Playcentre journey in 2017 at Lincoln Playcentre, where she still attends with her daughters, Victoria and Catherine.

She has held a variety of roles at Centre including Treasurer and President. In 2021 she got her first experience of Playcentre National Governance when she joined the Upper South Island Regional Representative Team.  Fran joined the Trustee Board in November 2022.

Hailing from Cardiff, Wales, Fran made the move to call Aotearoa New Zealand home in 2014. Fran has a background in operations, project and financial management across a range of large commercial and educational organisations.

Fran found her village at Playcentre and is grateful for the support and friendships made along her parenting journey.  She is passionate about Playcentre’s power to build and strengthen communities.

Peta Vassalini - Tangata Tiriti Trustee

Peta joined the Trustee Board in late 2023.  She began her Playcentre journey at Tamahere Playcentre in 2017 with her eldest tamaiti, and is still attending with her youngest who is set to graduate in 2025.

Peta has an education background as a Secondary School and Primary School teacher, including currently sitting on the school board for her tamariki.

Peta is passionate about play and the opportunities it gives tamariki, and is an advocate of Playcentre Aotearoa, believing that the philosophy gives our tamariki the greatest foundations for life.

Alice Norton - Tangata Tiriti Trustee

Alice joined the Trustee Board in late 2023. She began her Playcentre journey in Morrinsville in 2022 with her eldest child, and then later her son in January 2023 – he marked his first visit at just 10 days old.

With over a decade of experience as a Chartered Accountant, Alice presently serves as a part-time Financial Controller at a not-for-profit organisation.

Beyond her professional commitments, she finds joy in attending sessions with her children, forging connections with fellow parents, and witnessing the delightful journey of her children’s growth and learning alongside their peers.

Despite residing in Morrinsville for seven years, it was only through her involvement with Playcentre that Alice truly connected with local people, enriching her sense of community.