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Staff Profiles

Founded by directors Michael Willis and Kathy Rangiwananga, Willowbank is very proud of the team of highly qualified and dedicated staff who make the park what it is.

As a team we are all passionate about preserving and ensuring a future for New Zealand's most endangered species, and we love sharing our passion for native and exotic wildlife with our visitors. We are also passionate about sharing New Zealand's cultural hertiage, and our team includes the talented actors and performers who bring the Ko Tane cultural experience alive, very ably led by Dave Brennan.



Michael Willis
Role: Managing Director

Kathy Rangiwananga

Role: Director

Senior Staff


Dale Hedgcock
Visitor Centre Manager

Dale has worked at Willowbank for three years. Before coming here one of his jobs was as a Quality Assurance Engineer for Toyota Manufacturing in South Africa. Despite emigrating here six ago and loving life in New Zealand, Dale still can’t support the All Blacks when they play the Springboks. His favourite parts of the job are being in the outdoors, the variety of tasks, creative opportunities and the friendly atmosphere.

Shaun Horan
Head Keeper

Shaun has worked at Willowbank for twelve years. He was employed by the New Zealand Conservation Trust at Willowbank, and is much valued for his expertise with kiwi breeding. Shaun has had many varying roles in his time here including tour guiding, kiwi breeding, and even souvenir sales. Before Willowbank he worked riding thoroughbred race horses and as a contract fencer. His favourite aspect of the job is that everyday is unique. Shaun currently owns and operates his own horse stud.

Stephen Murray
Financial Manager

Stephen came to us a favour to a friend going on holiday and is still with us 10 and half years later making sure that everyone is paid and our finances balance. In his spare time, he is on the Trustee Board of his daughter’s school and he loves watching all forms of sport, runs and bikes regularly to compensate for his love of cooking and baking.“I love working here because no day is ever the same”

Jane Jeffs
 Customer Relations

Jane started work at Willowbank in January 2001, initially as a Night Guide then moved into the restaurant as waitress and subsequently Restaurant Supervisor for several years before moving into the office as Administrator.  For the last few years Jane has been responsible for arranging bookings and functions, overseeing the Annual Pass system etc but can often be found on the front desk or helping out in the restaurant.  She enjoys working Willowbank due to its uniqueness and the great staff.

Head Of Sections

Nick Ackroyd
Head of Native Species

About yourself: I enjoy working with birds and have experience with penguins, vultures, hummingbirds and many others. My time with Native species conservation at Willowbank has been most rewarding. Favourite part of the park? The Natives section. What do you enjoy most about working at Willowbank? The Takahe

Ian Pepperall

Head of Exotic Species

Lucy Turnbull

Head of Livestock


Section Keepers

 Matt Dallison





Heritage Livestock keeper, Nightguide
Matt has spent 2 years volunteering at Willowbank as well as doing night guiding and Junior Keeper. He has a certificate in outdoor 

leadership and plans  to do the National Certificate in Animal Management (Captive Wildlife). He loves working in  the outdoors.

Sam Willyams

Park Support Crew



Mike Thomson



Grounds man, gardener and delivery person


About yourself: I am a friendly and helpful person that likes to have a good laugh. Favourite part of the park? The trout pond with the viewing window. Why do you think that people should come to Willowbank? I think that people should come to Willowbank to experience New Zealand’s culture and wildlife up close in a natural setting that is east to get around and has friendly staff. What do you enjoy most about working at Willowbank? The staff lunch that is provided, the other staff and the environment that Willowbank creates.


Allister Wall

Section Assistant and Head of Recycling and Composting

Allister has been with Willowbank for ten years. He was born on the West Coast in Hokitika. He has many duties at Willowbank, including gardening, general maintenance and he does all the recycling. Allister can tell a good joke and always knows the weather forecast.



New Zealand Conservation Trust

Janet Hellyer (Jan)
Resource and Education Coordinator for the New Zealand Conservation Trust.

About yourself: I have worked for the New Zealand Conservation Trust for 10 years. My role is varied as it encompasses administration, fund raising, education presentations and raising the profile of the trust. Favourite part of the park? New Zealand Native section Why do you think people should come to Willowbank? Experience the different species of animals/birds on display. Experience native species in a natural environment. Participating in the tours offered will give visitors an appreciation for our unique endemic species, i.e. Kiwi and Tuatara. What do you enjoy most about working at Willowbank?The comradeship between staff and walking through the reserve observing the animals/birds.

Bethany Brett

Kiwi Husbandry and Education Officer, New Zealand Conservation Trust

About yourself: Confused American with a Batchelor of Science degree in animal and veterinary sciences from Clemson University, certificate of Captive Wild Animal management from Unitec. I have been at Willowbank Since 2012 and with the New Zealand Conservation trust since June 2014. Favourite part of the park? The Native Section! Especially the Nocturnal House and the Kea aviary. I also love working in the Kiwi breeding centre with the Kiwi eggs and chicks. Why do you think people should visit Willowbank? To get up close with all the awesome animals on site. What do you enjoy most about working at Willowbank? My favourite part of working at Willowbank is seeing the excitement of public when they see and meet our animals.

Jemma Martin
Kiwi Husbandry and Education Officer, New Zealand Conservation Trust
Jemma has a bachelor of Science in Zoology from Otago University and a post grad in Science of Zoology and completed the
National Certificate in Animal Management (Captive Wildlife). She is a keen hockey player and loves reality TV. She lived abraod for 3 years working in animal related jobs. Jemma loves working at Willowbank as it is the beginning to her dream career - she also loves the great lunches!


Senior Volunteers

Lindsay Macgregor
Senior Volunteer, Heritage Livestock

Lindsay is 67 year of age and has worked at rewinding motors, building factories and farming while bringing up her now adult children. More recently she looked after children and now volunteers at Willowbank on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. Lindsay is busy but loves it.

Mary-Ellen Wilson


Senior Volunteer, Kiwi husbandry

About yourself: I was born in Greymouth but have spent most of my life in Christchurch. I started working in the Customs department, then went to N.A.C/Air New Zealand and spent 25+ years with the travel industry. In the 70’s I moved to London where I continued to work. I love travelling and returned often to visit friends in the UK. I also volunteer with Volunteering Canterbury and the Red Cross. I like cycling, walking, music, gardening and reading. Favourite part of the park My favourite park of Willowbank is the Kiwi breeding area, visitors can come and watch some of the great work that is done as well. The natural forest area that Willowbank provides for the Kiwi is also a favourite. Why do you think people should come to Willowbank? I think people should came and encounter NZ native wildlife, and hopefully encourage ‘New Zealanders’ to think about the conservation and protection of our special native wildlife population. Willowbank also gives those who may never have seen farm, native or exotic species a chance to get close and enjoy them. What do you enjoy most about working at Willowbank? Helping maintain Kiwi numbers. Able to assist other areas when needed and I learn about other species. There is a variety of work, parts of which can change each week and I enjoy working with all the people.



Ko Tane

David Uenuku Rakei Ora Brennan (Dave)

Role: Director of Ko Tane
Dave is descendant of Te Ngai Tuahuriri/Ngati Whakaue Hapu my Iwi are Ngai Tahu and Te Arawa. He is Catholic by faith, and loves his family and fatherhood, and sports when he gets the time. He has been in partnership with Willowbank since 2003. Before arriving at Willowbank he managed Nga Hau E Wha National Marae’s tourism operation. Dave says he is in tourism because he loves meeting people from different cultures. He gets tremendous fulfillment from watching our visitors being filled with enjoyment from being in our country and experiencing our manakitanga (hospitality).

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