Patron: Rob McGowan

Present Board Members

Chairman- Max Mueller


As a child I have very fond memories of my parents setting aside a Sunday a month (a Swiss tradition), to take the family into the New Zealand bush where we tramped, traversed rivers, built huts, had billy tea and lunches that filled us up ready for the return hike. That experience certainly had an impact on how I developed a close connection to our incredible natural environment.

As a teacher I had numerous opportunities to take groups of students on school camps where I watched them blossom as they discovered resilience in meeting challenges and developing a wide range of new skills as a result of being exposed to effective outdoor education.

My last position was Principal at Matahui School which offers an extensive outdoor education programme as an integral part of its curriculum. So, when the opportunity came to join the Aongatete Outdoor Education Centre Board in 2015, it seemed a logical and practical way to further support the Centre in its mission to promote and foster environmental education opportunities for students and community groups across our region. This year was elected as the Chairperson for the Board and have the privilege of working alongside a very dedicated team.

Deputy Chairman- Sally Smart


Sally has been in education for over 35 years, initially as a secondary school teacher and then Principal before becoming an education consultant, working in NZ and internationally. She has always been involved in outdoor education and has been the appointed governance facilitator for the first NZ Senior High School in Auckland. Sally has led numerous international education projects in the Middle East and South East Asia. Now based in Tauranga, Sally is involved in supporting school boards and management to ensure the best learning outcomes for students.


Secretary- Carol Radford


Ko Te Rau Te Papa o te rohe o Ngāti Haku te maunga
Ko Waihou te awa
Ko Gala te waka
Ko Kotimana te iwi tīpuna *
Ko Alexander Fyfe raua ko Agnes Simmons ngā tīpuna
Ko Ngāti Pāhehā ahau

Ko Ngāti Haku te iwi o tēnei rohe
Ko Tirohia tōna marae
Ko Whakamaui te whare tipuna
Ko Amani te papa kainga inaianei

Ko Bruce tāku tane
Ko Rebecca tāku tamāhine
Ko Carol Radford ahau
Hello, my name is Carol Radford and I have lived in Aongatete for almost 20 years. I have always been passionate about protecting the environment for generations to come and am pleased to be welcomed on to the board of trustees for the Aongatete Outdoor Education

Treasurer- Morgan Lloyd

Still to come


Projects- Keith Pyle


Keith joined the Board of Aongatete in 2009 and was Treasurer until 2019. Keith has a passion for the outdoors and has been an active boy scout, tramper, mountaineer and sailor since the age of 13. Originally from South Africa where he obtained a BSc in Agriculture, he followed an agricultural career managing large corporate farms specialising in citrus and other crops in Zimbabwe and Eswatini (Swaziland) until 1997. He immigrated to NZ in 1998 where he has continued as a citrus consultant, a grower and active tramper. In the early seventies on an OE he spent just over a year working in the Outward Bound organisation, first in Zimbabwe and then the United Kingdom and Germany- experience which has been very valuable at Aongatete OEC.


Karen Tobich- Manager


Karen & her partner Allen both love the outdoors and always enjoyed helping and supporting people to adapt to new and often challenging situations.

Karen has an entrepreneurial business background and worked for many years as a business and personal performance coach specializing in “Self- Management Programs”.

Karen says she wakes up every morning and thinks that she is the luckiest person in the world to be a part of AOEC and to have the opportunity of creating a sustainable future for the Centre and being part of something that has a purpose for a greater good.

In their time at AOEC they have fallen in love with the forest and witnessed the effects of the forest in the lives of humans and the importance for this planet. Introducing children and adults to the magic of the forest is one of Karen’s & Allen’s greatest privileges.