Back To Top

From Our Chair

This year, 2019, has involved both major change, and consolidation of what we do.


After 16 years, Gemma decided in May 2019 that it was time to move in another direction with her career. Gemma has been a major player in the formation and development of POET. As our first Programme Coordinator, Gemma developed our spiral programme, and spent many years fine tuning and evolving the programme. She filled in all the detail and worked alongside many POET teachers as well as POET Programme Coordinators over the years. Gemma is well respected in the sector, and we were incredibly lucky to have her skills and expertise at our disposal for so long. We will miss her but wish her well in her future adventures.


A silver lining to losing Gemma was that we were able to gain the services of the energetic and effervescent Dave Williams before he took up his position at WINTEC in the first semester of 2020. Dave brought a high level of skills and energy to the job as well as a fresh set of eyes. It was great to have Dave’s endorsement of what we do, and we look forward to working closely with him and his WINTEC Outdoor Education students going forward. We welcomed Brian Connelly as Dave’s replacement in December 2019. He brings his own set of skills, and a thorough knowledge of the secondary school sector, and has proved an asset already.


Over the year a combination of Gemma, Donald, Dave and Brian have worked with 11 schools (not the same 11 schools as last year, as some move on and we welcome new schools aboard). POET schools have enabled a total of 6,029 days of high-quality outdoor experiences for students from POET schools. That is almost 1000 more than the previous year, and an achievement we are proud of.


A highlight of the year was our Strategic Planning session, ably led by the vastly experienced Vicky McLennan. Over the course of the day we examined why we started, where we have moved to, and where we might head toward in the future. We confirmed which aspects of our organisation are non-negotiable, and which had some room for movement.

This set a strong platform for Karen and the team going forward and was a strong and positive way to start the year. We are now focused on research to look more closely at what schools want, examining whether we are in the correct space to have the greatest impact, and ensuring we remain at the cutting edge of the sector, engaging in best practice at all times.


Another highlight was hosting once again the 2019 New Zealand Mountain Film Festival showing in Hamilton. With record attendees, it was a great way to spread the message around the outdoors, to thank our sponsors, and to raise funds for our programmes. Lodge Real Estate once again generously supported our event.


A personal highlight each year is attending our POET schools prizegivings. Here we get to present the annual POET Award for senior leadership on camps. This year they were presented with a tent from Kiwi Camping, a change from previous years when they have kindly donated back packs. All aimed to help our young people continue to get outdoors. We also have the privilege of announcing recipients of our POET Head start Scholarships, generously supported by the Brian Perry Charitable Trust. This year we were able to help 10 of our POET school students get started at a Waikato tertiary institute.


I would like to thank all our staff, past and current, for their work this year but special thanks go to Karen who has managed staff changes smoothly and successfully, and to Donald who has embraced his new work mates, taking the changes in his stride and taking the positive out of new situations. They have both done us proud. Thank you also to the POET Board – Craig, Mike, Emma, Rob and Vicky. POET is lucky to have a Board with such a wide range of skills who take their roles very seriously, while having fun at the same time. It is a pleasure to work with all of you.


Recent months have of course brought different trials, and our POET staff and trustees have been working at home to ensure we are adaptable and resilient to not only survive but to thrive in what will be a new work environment. We look forward to the challenges that 2020 will bring.


-Marlene Julian, POET Chairperson