Award-winning leadership

Bernardine Vester is a former educator and foundation Chief Executive of COMET, a registered charitable trust and CCO of the Auckland Council (formerly, for Manukau City). She was awarded the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship in 2002, applying this to her leadership of COMET as New Zealand’s premier example of local government practice to support learning. The Trust won the 2004 Education Trust of the Year award and in 2005 Bernardine received a Cathay Pacific Travel Award to the USA and the UK. She won the Holmes Prize from Victoria University of Wellington in 2006 for her research on local government and education.

Education sector experience

Formerly a Vice-President of the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (1996-1999), and a senior manager in secondary schools, Bernardine’s experience of cross- sector collaborations includes working in South Auckland with early childhood, primary and tertiary innovators on projects as diverse as youth transitions, participation in early learning, family literacy, digital communities, and defining communities of practice. A recent assignment took her to Malaysia to write professional development materials for school principals and government officials working on schooling improvement. Victoria University Press published her book Southern Transformation: searching for educational success in South Auckland, in November 2016.

Governance experience

Bernardine is Chair of Teach First New Zealand, Chair of Te Tuhi Contemporary Art Trust and a member of Te Tuhi Contemporary Art Foundation; and a member of the New Zealand Institute of Directors. She led the establishment boards at Mission Heights schools, and is (to June 2017) a member of the Ormiston Junior College establishment board. She is an independent provider of governance services for NZSTA.


MPP (Victoria); Post-Grad Dip Bus Studies (Massey), Dip SLT (Massey), Dip Tchg (Auckland), B.A. (Waikato)



There are two Aucklands. One is the educated, urbane beneficiary of social capital and educational investment. The other is apparently an educational wasteland, its dysfunctions threatening to sink Auckland’s economic future. To many, South Auckland is an intractable public policy problem. If only we could ‘fix’ the south, its inequalities would disappear and not only Auckland, but Aotearoa, would be richer and more comfortable for it...

`...the most thoughtful analysis of education in South Auckland that I have read in the last decade.` Mark Barratt, Education Aotearoa, NZEI Te Riu Roa, Summer 2017. 

Book available from November 2016 from Victoria University Press and all good bookshops.