Ako Ōtautahi
Learning City Christchurch Team

Phil Garing

Founder and Chief Executive - Synapsys

With a background in law and tertiary education, Phil has worked widely in Learning and Development across Government, commercial and educational organisations for over 20 years.

Founder and Chief Executive of Synapsys , his extensive portfolio of clients and projects demonstrates a rare ability to cut to the chase in understanding what an organisation is trying to achieve. He’s valued for his ability to identify key trends in learning and learning technologies, and their application to real world situations. He has a particular interest in Return on Investment (ROI), and effectiveness measurement.

Louisa Bangma

Business Manager - Recalibrate Ltd. Event Manager – Future of Learning

Louisa is the Business and Project Manager of Recalibrate, an IT Management Consultancy, and Event Manager of  The Future of Learning Conference which is about how accelerating technologies are affecting our learning environments  in the future.

Louisa completed her MBA in 2011, and is currently a Board member of the Canterbury MBA Graduate Association. She enjoys growing her own organic produce in a permaculture garden just west of Christchurch.


Robin Sutton

Principal, Te Huruhuru Ao o Horomaka Hornby High School

Robin has worked in education and the not for profit sector during a forty year career. He taught at Hornby High School in the late 90s before beginning a 15 year spell at Christ’s College as Senior Master Curriculum (Assistant Principal). He returned to Hornby High School as Principal in 2016 where he has been privileged to lead the staff team redeveloping the school’s physical building infrastructure, its curriculum, and its pastoral systems. These have all evolved to build on those things that he believes are the fundamental building blocks of all learning: student efficacy, agency, and self belief.

Liz Brown

Te Amokapua Māori Tuarua, Deputy Assistant Vice-Chancellor Māori, Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha - University of Canterbury

Ko Nuku Mānia te maunga
Ko Orakaia te awa
Ko Te Waihora te hāpua
Ko Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe me Waitaha ngā iwi
Ko Moki te marae
Ko Taumutu te wāhi
Ko Liz Brown tōku ingoa.

Liz has worked in education across a number of fields, as a primary school teacher, a tertiary
lecturer, and for the Ministry of Education.

She is the Chairperson of Mātauraka Mahaanui, a Ngāi Tahu mandated advisory board to the
Ministry of Education, focussed on the regeneration of education in Greater Christchurch.
Mātauraka Mahaanui has a team of people supporting the inclusion of cultural narratives in the
design of Early Childhood Centres and schools, as well as in the curriculum.

She has held governance roles, as Te Taumutu’s representative on Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi
Tahu representative’s on the CPIT Council, and is a member of Te Waihora Co-Governance Board. Liz
is also the Chairperson of Te Taumutu Rūnanga.

Liz is currently the Deputy Assistant Vice Chancellor Māori at the University of Canterbury.

Atarau Hamilton

Youth Advisory Trustee

Atarau Hamilton-Fuller (from the tribes of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngaa Rauru, Ngāti Raukawa) has experience in youth & community planning, leadership, and development. Previously working as a Facilitator with a Social Enterprise which focused on providing employment pathways for the most excluded and disadvantaged rangatahi (young people) in the Hawkes Bay region. His passion is education, training, and Indigenous rangatahi development and this is clear in everything he does. His involvement in the community engagement for the Canterbury region during the 2020 General Election and continues to engage the community with his work in Ōtautahi and across the motu.

Cheryl Doig

Leadership Futurist - Think Beyond

Dr Cheryl Doig is a leadership futurist with a passion for supporting leaders and organisations to think differently in order to adapt to a rapidly changing and complex world. Cheryl is an accredited member of the Association of Professional Futurists and her business, Think Beyond, focuses on leadership at the edges. In 2017 Cheryl was a finalist in the Westpac Women of Influence Awards, Innovation and Science category.

Cheryl is currently the Board Chair of the NZ Brain Research Institute  and serves on a number of trusts. She is also involved in a range of collaborative projects including Grow Waitaha, the Future of Learning and Learning City Christchurch, Ako Ōtautahi.

Elle Archer

Elle Archer

Director I Innovator I Educator I Technologist I Speaker

Elle is passionate about helping to create purpose-driven, connective, collaborative, and innovative communities. She has been engaged in various business, industry, and community development initiatives for the past 24 years. Having been involved in geospatial technology and sustainable solutions since 2006, she is now a recognised Senior Technologist, is multi-science educated and certified, and applies this knowledge and experience to aid in providing specialist STEM educational and skills development programmes across multiple industry sectors. She is currently the Managing Director of ELG (Purpose Cultivation), sits on the Central Plains Water Trust (Sustainable Water and Biodiversity Scheme) and Accurate NZ (Geospatial Technology) boards, and is the President of the Industry Association Nulca NZ (Utilities Infrastructure).

Elle also works in and advocates for: Smart Cities Council (Smart Societies), Smart Industries Global, Industry and Professional Pathway Development, STEM and Youth Empowerment Aotearoa – within NZ and Asia Pacific.

Pene Abbie

Principal, Paparoa Street School

Pene is an educator and is currently working as Principal at Paparoa Street Primary School.

Her interest in Learning City Christchurch has been significantly influenced by the opportunity we have as a city in revival to look at learning beyond our traditional idea of schooling. The opportunity to be involved as an advisory trustee for Learning City really allows her to utilise her strengths of Ideation, Strategy, Adaptability and Future Focus. She is particularly focused on influencing the thinking and action of regular schooling providers in generating new learning opportunities that promote connection, improved equity, thinking beyond the regular classroom and valuing all experiences as learning. 

Beth Walters

Youth Advisory Trustee

Beth grew up in the Eastern Suburbs of Ōtautahi and attended Aranui Highschool. After working overseas in education Beth returned to Christchurch to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Political Science and Geography. For Beth, people, in particular, young people empowered in their passions and purpose and realizing the value of their voice is the ‘why’ behind Beth’s mahi and she now finds herself working within the community engagement space within Ōtautahi. Creativity, connection and collaboration are things Beth also seeks out in all she does to see how young people can be active citizens within their city.

Throughout the past few years Beth has been a board member for 298 Health, a member of the Child and Youth Friendly Cities Christchurch initiative, is a youth mentor and youth leader, has been involved with PYLAT, Youth Voice Canterbury, Puāwai, an executive member on the Student Volunteer Army through their COVID-19 response and enjoys supporting and building relationships with the many youth participation groups in Õtautahi. Her dream is to see Christchurch as a city where there are equal opportunities for all and for a city where young people feel heard and seen and know their value in learning from the past in order to shape the future.

Mahlon Saumalu

Youth Advisory Trustee

Mahlon is a young Christchurch born Samoan with a heart and passion for the people and communities around him. He is currently a South Island Youth Advisor for the Electoral Commission after studying towards a Bachelor in Jazz Performance degree at Ara Music Arts (formerly CPIT Jazz School). Often drawing on his cultural experience and knowledge, he navigates life with a keen awareness of displaying fa’aaloalo (respect) and tautua (servitude) towards all aspects of life and all people as well as interweaving his faith-based values in everything he does. He has a passion for empowering and equipping disengaged peoples whether that be through finding equitable and accessible educational systems or teaching civics and citizenship through empowerment and active engagement. He hopes to see a society where all people are participating in an equal, fair and just world and have the opportunity to build sustainable and productive futures for themselves, their families and their communities.

Our ways of working together and with others:

Learning City Christchurch is focused on Equity, Access and Innovation.



We support projects that aim to reduce poverty and enable learners to be successful. We support the development of social capital - creating new links across the city using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations as a framework. We focus on collaboration rather than competition for the benefit of all.



All people should have access to learning. This includes intergenerational learning and inclusion.
We create opportunities for families to explore learning experiences together and help individuals and groups to connect while supporting them to do their own work.



This includes transformation and disruption of things that are not working, creation of new ideas and opportunities and acting on these. We target future-focused approaches to learning, use of technology to support learning and the fostering of city-wide dispositions that are agile and adaptive. We encourage creativity and fun.


Aligned and influenced by sustainability...

Learning City Christchurch is strongly aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and we’re actively encouraging individuals and organisations to consider how these impact on their practice and direction. How can we all work together to make it work!