Meet our presenters.



Anyone can give an opinion, but few can give an expert one. We have sought out talented Kiwis who are deeply knowledgeable in their specialised field, and asked their thoughts on some of the biggest issues facing us today.

Mina Amso The Common Room

Mina Amso

Journalist and Podcaster

Mina is an award-winning writer, experienced multi-media journalist and podcaster. She worked with well-known newspapers, including, The Otago Daily Times, and Channel 39. She later moved to Christchurch to work as a correspondent for the NZ Catholic. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with Pacific Media Network and hosting her show, The Mina Amso Show.

Sir Ray Avery The Common Room

Sir Ray Avery

Scientist, Inventor and Philanthropist
Sir Ray is an award-winning, internationally recognised scientist, social entrepreneur, author, philanthropist and inspirational speaker who went from Street Kid to Knighthood and challenges everyone to dream big.

Cameron Bagrie

Managing Director, Bagrie Economics

Cameron has been an economist for 20 years. For over 11 years he was the Chief Economist at ANZ, heading a team that was consistently ranked No.1 for its analysis of the New Zealand economy. He developed a reputation for taking a forthright stand on even the hardest of economic issues. He’s also worked as an economist at the National Bank, Treasury and Statistics New Zealand.

Steve Ballantyne

Narrative Strategist, Brand IQ

Steve is one of New Zealand’s leading Narrative Strategists, helping organisations to develop a clear, captivating brand story. Having spent over 30 years in the marketing industry, he founded and ran one of NZ’s most successful B2B marketing agencies for 25 years, and is currently Managing Director of brand agency Brand IQ. He is also co-founder of Australasian recruitment ad agency Big Splash and teaches storytelling at the NZ Marketing Association.

Paula Bennett

Former Deputy Prime Minister

Paula was the Deputy Prime Minister with the National Party and held portfolios including social housing, associate finance and state services. She now works at Bayleys Real Estate as National Director-Customer Engagement, writes a weekly column for NZ Herald and hosts, Give Us A Clue on TVNZ. Paula is Māori with Tainui ancestry.

Camryn Brown

Consultant, Political Commentator

Camryn is a management consultant with over 16 years of experience in New Zealand and the US. He writes for a range of right-leaning blogs including his own on Medium and The Blue Review on Patreon and volunteers with the National Party as its Northcote Electorate Chair. He’s an avid baseball fan and player… go the Tuatara!

Karen Chhour The Common Room

Karen Chhour

Act List MP
Nearly every MP says they want to reform CYFPs/CYFs/Oranga Tamariki. Karen lived it and came to Parliament in 2020 to make a better world for children. Karen has been self-employed in the New Zealand-made clothing industry. She is a mother of four and has lived on Auckland’s North Shore for the past 30 years. She is the ACT Spokesperson for Child Poverty Reduction, Children and Social Development. Karen is of Māori descent and belongs to the Ngāpuhi iwi.
Ashley Church The Common Room

Ashley Church

Social Commentator

Ashley is a well-known social media commentator with strong views on politics and the economy and is frequently quoted on radio and in print. He writes for the Herald and also appears regularly as a guest commentator and industry expert in national media. He is a past Chairman of the Taxpayers Union, a founding member of the Free Speech Union and one of the founding Directors of the Israel Institute of New Zealand. Ashley also has over 30 years of experience in the property industry. As the CEO of the Property Institute between 2015 and 2019, he transformed that organisation into a highly visible property advocacy body. Prior to that, he was CEO of both the Newmarket Business Association and the Auckland Property Investors Association.

Bruce Cotterill The Common Room

Bruce Cotterill

5 time CEO, Company Director, Advisor to Business Leaders, Keynote Speaker, Columnist and Bestselling Author

Bruce is a transformation leader with extensive experience across a range of industries, including real estate, media, financial services, professional services, technology and retail – and a variety of ownership models, including private equity and public companies. He is now a professional director with a portfolio comprising six Boards, and a retained advisor to a number of corporate organisations and professional services businesses across New Zealand. Bruce is a published author, and he is a regular business columnist for the New Zealand Herald, and other NZME publications.

Dr Melissa Derby

Ngāti Ranginui, Senior Lecturer, University of Waikato

Melissa is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Waikato specialising in early literacy research, with a focus on families and localised curriculum. She is Editor of Te Kaharoa  – the eJournal on Indigenous Pacific Issues, and co-edits the New Zealand Association for Research in Education’s blog, Ipu Kererū.

Maria English The Common Room

Maria English

CEO of Impact Lab

Maria is the CEO of ImpactLab, a startup that connects decision makers in the community sector with data they can trust, use and learn from to do good, better. Since launching in 2019, ImpactLab has helped estimate the impact of 200+ social interventions on the lives of 400,000 New Zealanders. Maria is from Southland and has a Politics and Psychology degree from Cambridge University and a Masters in Business Administration from Stanford University.

Mina Amso The Common Room

David Farrar

Media Commentator, Pollster and Blogger, Curia Market Research

David is a pollster, researcher and blogger sharing his views on Kiwiblog. He owns Curia Market Research, a specialist opinion and market research company. He is an experienced company director and chair. And is a regular commentator in the media on political and other issues.

Dr Oliver Harwich The Common Room

Dr Oliver Hartwich

Executive Director, The New Zealand Initiative

Oliver is the Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative. Before joining the Initiative, he was a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, the Chief Economist at Policy Exchange in London, and an advisor in the UK House of Lords. Oliver holds a Master’s degree in Economics and Business administration and a PhD in Law from Bochum University in Germany.

Liam Hehir

Lawyer, Political Commentator

Liam Hehir is a lawyer and political commentator who lives in the Manawatu. He publishes his opinion pieces on The Blue Review on Patreon, is a guest writer for The Spinoff, and makes regular appearances as a panelist on Q&A with Jack Tame.

Kirk Hope

CEO of BusinessNZ

Kirk is CEO of BusinessNZ, New Zealand’s leading business advocacy group. Kirk and his Wellington-based team work with companies, organisations and political decision-makers, advocating for New Zealand’s success through sustainable economic growth. Before joining BusinessNZ, Kirk was CEO of the New Zealand Bankers’ Association.  Prior to that, he was Executive Director of the Financial Services Federation and has held a range of senior positions at Westpac, including Head of Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs. Kirk holds a Master’s degree in law, focused on regulation of financial services, and an Honours degree in political science.

Aaron Ironside The Common Room

Aaron Ironside

Say Nope To Dope Spokesperson

Aaron was a spokesperson for the Say Nope To Dope campaign in the 2020 Cannabis Referendum. He has been a popular radio host for 30 years, most notably with the Morning Pirates on Radio Hauraki in the late 1990’s. He now spends his time helping others in his private practice Bridge the Gap Counselling, and manages a team of Welfare Officers at the Auckland International Seafarers Centre.

Dr Michael Johnston The Common Room

Dr Michael Johnston

Dr Michael Johnston has held academic positions at Victoria University of Wellington for the past ten years. This includes being the Associate Dean (Academic) of the University’s School of Education for the last 3 years.
Prior to his time at Victoria, Dr Johnston was the Senior Statistician at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, a position he held for 6 years. Before that, he held positions at Melbourne and Latrobe universities. Dr Johnston holds a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Melbourne

Mahesh Muralidhar The Common Room

Sunny Kaushal

Chair of the Dairy and Business Owners Group

As a successful businessperson, community leader and persistent advocate for small businesses in NZ, Sunny juggles many hats, including owning the oldest microbrewery and historic hotel, The Shakespeare. He established the Crime Prevention Group and the Dairy and Business Owner’s Group representing thousands of small businesses from Kaitaia to Bluff across New Zealand and is involved in law and order, local government, and policy.

Mike King

Founder, I Am Hope

Former comedian and tv personality Mike King is now New Zealand’s leading mental health advocate. He is founder of I Am Hope and Gumboot Friday, registered charities under the Key to Life Charitable Trust. Mike is passionate about bringing hope to young people through positive societal attitudinal change. He was named New Zealander of the Year in 2019.

Agnes Loheni The Common Room

Agnes Loheni

Entrepreneur, Qualified Chemical Engineer, Mum of 5, and Former National MP

Agnes is a Samoan New Zealander, who grew up in a state house – with up to 15 family members in three bedrooms – on McGehan Close, the “dead end” street that epitomised hopelessness for former PM, John Key. Agnes graduated with an engineering degree from Auckland University and had a two-year OE based in London before starting a family business, Mena, that became a trailblazer in contemporary Pasifika fashion. Agnes is a former National Party MP.

Bryce McKenzie The Common Room

Bryce McKenzie

Farmer and Co-founder of Groundswell NZ
Bryce has been a farmer his whole life, working as both a Sheep & Beef farmer and Dairy farmer. He is a founding member of the Pomahaka Water Care Group, a volunteer group to protect and improve the water quality of the Pomahaka River. Happily married with four children, Bryce spends his free time fly fishing. His concern for the younger generation and the pressures they face farming under unworkable regulations led him to establish Groundswell NZ in 2020.

Dr Paul Moon ONZM

Professor of History, Auckland University of Technology

DLitt, PhD, MPhil (Hons), MA (Hons), FRSA, FLS, FRGS, FRAI,FRHistS (London)

Paul is one of our most acclaimed historians and widely recognised for his study of the Treaty of Waitangi and the early period of Crown rule in New Zealand. He has written over 25 books including major biographies of political and Māori figures, and a general history of New Zealand in the twentieth century. 

Mahesh Muralidhar The Common Room

Mahesh Muralidhar

Venture Capitalist

Mahesh has held multiple executive roles in some of Australia’s iconic start-ups, including the first-ever Head of People at Canva and CEO of Simply Wall St. He is now back in New Zealand and the founder and CEO of Phase One Ventures, an early-stage venture firm. Mahesh is a mentor for CIE’s mentor sessions and a volunteer adviser at Start-up Studio programme run by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, leading regular sessions advising students on how to progress their ventures.

John O'Connell The Common Room

John O’Connell

CEO, Life Education Trust NZ

John has been Chief Executive of Life Education Trust for 12 years and has a career spanning over 20 years in community, not-for-profit organisations. Working in the health education sector, John sees the environment that children grow up in today is evolving at a rapid pace, adding to the challenges young people face as they navigate adolescence.

Simon O'Connor The Common Room

Simon O’Connor

National MP

Simon was first elected as the National Party Member of Parliament for Tamaki in 2011. Prior to his election, his background included a broad range of experiences in the commercial, public, and voluntary sectors. Currently, Simon is Spokesperson for Corrections, Customs, and Arts, Culture & Heritage, and Associate Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs. In previous Parliaments, he was the Chair of the Health Committee and, more recently, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee. Simon is also a part of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.

Josie Pagani The Common Room

Josie Pagani

Political Commentator

Josie Pagani writes a weekly column in Stuff and the Dominion Post. She works in aid, politics, trade and media, and is involved in progressive think tanks in the UK and Europe. For the last six years was the Executive Director of the Council for International Development (CID). She has worked as a political advisor to governments, to Prime Ministers and ministers, and has high-level experience in the aid and development sector at the OECD in Paris, and before that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Simon O'Connor The Common Room

Alex Penk

Independent Researcher and Writer

Alex has spent most of the last two decades exploring the ideas, evidence and beliefs that are shaping Aotearoa New Zealand. He has a background in law and public policy, an LLM from Cambridge University, and was a Visiting Fellow at the McDonald Centre at Oxford University in 2016. He’s appeared frequently in the media and before Parliamentarians, public servants, and select committees. These days he’s a consultant, a member of the National Party, and publishes at aplacetostand.substack.com.

Mina Amso The Common Room

Sean Plunket

Founding Editor, The Platform

Sean Plunket is a New Zealand broadcast journalist. Plunket has worked for several New Zealand broadcast media companies and stations, including Radio Windy, Independent Radio News, Radio New Zealand, TV3, TVNZ, Newstalk ZB, and MagicTalk. In late 2021, Plunket founded The Platform, an independent media site providing unbiased coverage, commentary and opinion and the chance for Kiwis to have their say on the issues that affect them.

Ian Powell

Health Systems Commentator and Blogger

Ian Powell was Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, the professional union representing senior doctors and dentists in New Zealand, for over 30 years, until December 2019. He is now a health systems, labour market, and political commentator living in the small river estuary community of Otaihanga (the place by the tide). He has an MA in History and Political Science from the University of Canterbury and a Diploma of Industrial Relations from Victoria University of Wellington. He writes for a range of publications, including his blog site Otaihanga Second Opinion.

Marcus Roberts

Senior Researcher, Maxim Institute

Marcus has a background in the law, both in practice and academia. After practising in tax and insolvency litigation, he studied for his LLM at the University of Auckland and stayed on for a number of years teaching a variety of core law courses. Now with Maxim, his research interests include NZ’s broader constitutional framework, demographic change and NZ’s place in a rapidly changing Pacific and wider world.

Desley Simpson

Deputy Mayor of Auckland, Councillor for Ōrākei Ward

Desley is Deputy Mayor of Auckland and an Auckland Councillor representing the Ōrākei Ward around the Town Hall table. She chairs the Finance and Performance Committee, the Value for Money Committee and the Auckland Domain committee. Prior to election as a Councillor, Desley was chairperson of the Ōrākei Local Board.

Mina Amso The Common Room

Rachel Smalley

Journalist and Broadcaster

Rachel Smalley has been a journalist for over 25 years and is the founder of The Medicine Gap, a storytelling campaign to highlight the human impact of New Zealand’s unfunded medicines crisis.

Smalley was based in Europe for several years working for TV3 and Sky News UK reporting on globally significant events, including the London Bombings, elections in France and Britain, and Barack Obama’s historic election to the White House.

In 2015-2016, she spearheaded World Vision New Zealand’s most successful fundraising campaign reporting on the Syrian Refugee Crisis from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Serbia and Lebanon. She was a senior member of TV3’s news and current affairs team for over a decade hosting several of their high profile shows, and most recently worked in radio for NewstalkZB, and TodayFM team, and as a columnist for NBR.

Ronji Tanielu

Community Worker

Ronji was born in Sāmoa, but raised in Mangere in South Auckland. He trained as a lawyer, and is a social policy analyst and community worker with an international charitable organisation. Ronji is invested in the local community and is passionate about serving in practical ways.

Danielle van Dalen The Common Room

Danielle van Dalen

Former Public Policy Researcher

After completing a Master’s degree in Political Science from Leiden University in the Netherlands Danielle joined the Maxim Institute research team in 2016. She has produced research on a range of issues, including overcoming the barriers to employment for people with disabilities, the role of Government and society in protecting the freedoms of our society, the End of Life Choice Act, and how we best ensure sufficient access and funding for palliative care. Danielle is now back at University, embarking on a PhD.

Jordan Williams

Executive Director, Taxpayers’ Union

Jordan is a constitutional and commercial lawyer who manages the day-to-day operations of the Taxpayers Union. In 2019 Jordan was elected onto the Board of World Taxpayers Associations – the global network of taxpayers groups working together for lower taxes, limited and accountable government, and taxpayer rights all over the world.

Tim Wilson

Executive Director, Maxim Institute

Before joining public policy think tank Maxim Institute, Tim was an award-winning journalist working in print, radio and television. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian and Newsweek.com. He was TVNZ’s first US Correspondent, and has also been a business development manager, and an English teacher. Tim has written three novels, one of which, Their Faces Were Shining, was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

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