Board of Trustees

Home > Our People > Board of Trustees

The Huanui College Boards of Trustees provide strategic leadership and direction to our kura. The board works in partnership with the community, principal, teachers, support staff, and the government to ensure the best possible outcomes for all students.


  • Chair –  Peter Ferguson
  • Founder – Evan Hamlet
  • Principal – Philip Coombe
  • Board Secretary – Debby Bain
  • Members – Gary Payinda, Rick Stolwerk, Joanne Ashby, Tracy Donald, Phi Wilson
  • Foundation Pupil – Kelsey Eaton

Peter Ferguson

Chair of the Board

Evan Hamlet

Founder of Huanui College

Huanui College came about by the vision of its founders, Mr Evan Hamlet, and Mrs Anna Hamlet. Evan, originally from Dargaville, established the College to provide high quality independent education. The College aims to develop students’ talents and abilities in a learning environment that encourages excellent attitudes to learning and life within a caring community that involves parents in their child’s education.

Huanui College was established on 8 February 2010. It was officially opened by the Honourable Heather Roy and Mayor Stan Semenoff on March 10, 2010 at the College Opening Day, and was blessed by the Reverend Hake Parata and he tangata o Pehiaweri Marae.

Philip Coombe

Principal of Huanui College

Philip began his teaching career at Hamilton Boys High School and then moved to Auckland Grammar School, and on to senior positions at Macleans College and King’s College.  Philip describes these as wonderful experiences and he comments that he has been privileged to work with many outstanding teachers and students.

Philip’s own interests have developed around student thinking and learning, curriculum and professional learning as well as being widely involved in a variety of sports, notably football and rowing.  He is a past national examiner, curriculum advisor and a trustee of the New Zealand Education Scholarship Trust. Philip chose to come to Huanui College as he looks forward to helping create something very special and unique within the Northland community.

Debby Bain

Board Secretary

Debby grew up in Whangārei, and was away overseas for over 20-years. She has experience in commercial real estate for a global company, though enjoys working in the education sector. Debby appreciates working with the students and staff at the College, while appreciating the different levels of interaction from Board members, students and families. The fluidity of her role is an aspect that Debby appreciates, and she observes that the Covid pandemic has taught us all patience, perseverance and to continue to push forward when there are challenges. What Debby enjoys about working at Huanui College is seeing staff work hard for students in helping them achieve the best they can be in a positive environment – that makes all the difference.

Gary Payinda


Gary enjoys memories of seeing the little kids playing ‘spotlight’ from Year 7 school camp who are now driving cars, working part-time jobs, and telling him their plans for uni, careers and bright futures. Looking forward, Gary hopes to see data confirming that Huanui doesn’t just get students into the first year of university, but prepares them to thrive there. Building our big-project infrastructure to the next level,  and, developing our capacity to train students in IT are also important for him, while also remaining true to one of the key differences of Huanui: it’s not just about achievement, its about trying your hardest, whether its academic, athletic, or being of service to others.

Joanne Ashby

Member – People and Remuneration

Joanne has a diverse background in Human Resources consulting and management across a wide range of industries. Over the years she has worked in NZ, Hong Kong, the UK and Australia while travelling extensively. Joanne currently specialises in Executive Coaching, Career Development and Executive Search.

Joanne believes strongly in education in all its forms. Experience has shown her that a good education opens doors way beyond just having a good career. It allows us to lift our thinking, extend our empathy and engage with the wider world to navigate the different cultures and complexities which are part of our global future. It is because of Joanne’s commitment to education that she is on two school boards. Continuous growth and innovation in education is her dream for Huanui College.

Phi Wilson


For the 30 years preceding Phi’s work with Huanui College, she spent 25 years at Whangarei Boys High School, and 5 years tutoring at a Private Training Institution. Phi started at Huanui College as the first Business Manager from its inception in 2009, until her retirement in 2015. Phi was asked to join The Board in 2020 because of her knowledge in education, particularly at Secondary School level. Some of Phi’s very early memories of the school are her most cherished, and include:

  • The enrolment submissions for the first year being completed and collated on her kitchen table at home, and the real sense of being part of a ‘beginning’
  • The fortnightly joy of seeing Evan Hamlet arrive with more furniture and equipment in the trailer on the back of his car.  Never knowing quite what he would come up with!
  • The Official Opening of the school and the intensity of emotions seeing a dream come true for Evan, Anna and Evan’s parents
  • The look of pure terror on some of the science students when Mr Ackers let off the first laboratory constructed bomb
  • When the nearby horses escaped and ran round and round the buildings, and up the highway, with staff and some students in pursuit. Soon after, the horses turned back, and then it was a whole other show watching the staff fleeing for their lives!

Kelsey Eaton

Foundation Pupil

Kelsey is originally a founding pupil of Huanui College, and now, the Inaugural Alumni President. Kelsey is responsible for establishing the Huanui Alumni Association for our Huanuians, and seeing it provide further support to its members through cultivating intergenerational connectivity, continuity and community. She is humbled and ecstatic to be on the Huanui College Board. Kelsey’s values naturally align with those of the College, and she feels confident in being able to effectively and appropriately help to guide its strategic direction for 2020. Furthermore, Kelsey looks to unite all of her experience and skills to benefit all in our community.

Rick Stolwek


Rick was first elected to the Northland Regional Council (NRC) as the Councillor for Coastal South in 2016 and re-elected in 2019. In 2021 Rick Chairs; the Civil Defence Emergency Management Group for Northland, the Regional Transport Committee and the NRC Investment and Property Subcommittee. He has widespread governance experience, presently holding trustee positions with; Sport Northland (NRC representative), the Waipu Cove Reserve Board and is President of the Waipu Cove Surf Life Saving Club.  From 2014-16 he was appointed to the Board of Surf Life Saving New Zealand. Previously Rick has been Chair of the Waipu Museum (1999-2005), committee member NZ Coastal Society (2003-05) and a Board member at Waipu Primary School (2001-16). Rick has an MSc in Environmental Management from Auckland University 2001 – having tutored in this area at North Tec from 1996 – 2005. Interests beside surf life saving, include cycling and ocean swimming.

Tracy Donald


Tracy has been a Board member for about four years, and has two children at the College in years 11 and 12. She is a Barrister sole, working in criminal law, specialising in Youth Justice. Tracy has worked for the Police, the Privacy Commissioner and as a sole practitioner, and brings a range of knowledge and experience with her from these positions. She has previously served on the Boards of New Zealand Kindergartens, and for Hurupaki School here in Northland. As a Board member Tracy is wanting to see the College provide excellence in academic outcomes for all students as well as a positive environment in terms of both the physical grounds, and the culture of the College. This is always a work in progress, and undertaken through continued community support, while balancing fiscal responsibility with the needs and wants of the Students and Staff.


+64 9 459 1930