About Us

The YMCA is the cornerstone of a strong, caring and safe community, helping to build strong children, strong families and strong communities, living harmoniously in a safe and caring society.

To support the holistic development of all people with specific emphasis on youth. To construct values based and ethical communities, creating a society of justice, freedom and peace.



YMCA Staff Leadership Profiles

Gerry Gibbs Chief Executive Officer

In 1995, Gerry was approached to consider a new role with the YMCA after the Board of Trustees had sold its only building in a survival bid to pay off its debts. From this, perhaps inauspicious, start Gerry now leads a significant organisation with a committed team of over 150 staff and volunteers. Under Gerry’s leadership the YMCA Central offers an impressive diversity of programmes, which are delivered across a geographical area stretching from the Waimarino through to the Horowhenua. Gerry’s belief in the YMCA mission, vision and its values sees him successfully seeking and receiving support from local and national agencies to benefit individuals, families and our community.

Gerry was self-employed for 20 years in Australia, Europe and the Middle-East prior to managing restaurants and hotels in Australia and New Zealand. He understands first-hand the difficulties facing one-parent families, having been a solo parent to his two girls. 

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027 475 4154


Barbara Candish – Education Director

Barbara leads our Education Department which delivers the largest number and broadest range of foundation learning programmes of any YMCA in New Zealand. Barbara has fostered the growth of our education department which, when she started with the YMCA in 1992, delivered just one programme.

A long-standing member of the YMCA in Whanganui, the benefit of Barbara’s experience and expertise are appreciated beyond our local region as she has been involved with the YMCA National Programme Committee since its inception.

Outside work Barbara enjoys spending time with family and sharing in activities they can do together.      

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027 274 3976   


Robyn Ryder – Recreation Manager

Robyn provides overall management of the Recreation Department for the YMCA in the Whanganui region. She leads a team that is committed to meeting the needs of the wider community through excellent service provision of OSCAR, holiday, dance/fitness and sports programmes for children and families.

Robyn has a background in health, fitness and general recreation. She has been with the YMCA in Whanganui since the early 1990’s and in that time has seen the “Y” go from strength to strength in programming and service. 

Robyn has been involved with a number of volunteer organisations and currently volunteers on the Tartan Club Committee. This is a fundraising group which supports Brass Wanganui, and was initially set up to raise funds for the band to attend the Edinburgh Tattoo.

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027 442 9158


Vaughan Dennison - Operational Manager, Palmerston North

Vaughan provides overall management of, and direction to, the YMCA in Palmerston North. He leads a team that is committed to growing and expanding a programme base that meets the community’s needs and expectations, supporting the holistic development of all people.    

Vaughan has an extensive background in management and hospitality. He is serving his fifth term as a Councillor with the Palmerston North City Council, and is now chairing the Community Development Committee.

Vaughan is married with four children and is actively involved in the community with his family through sports, music, cultural and community events. He also serves on the Kia Toa Trust.

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027 601 1428


Scott Tunnicliffe – Recreation Development Manager, Whanganui

Scott provides active leadership and programme coordination for our Whanganui Recreation team. Scott has a qualification in Sport Development and Coaching and after initially commencing in a part-time capacity; Scott has worked his way up to a senior management role with responsibilities for programme development within the Recreation Department. Scott travelled to Europe in 2011 visiting different YMCAs, and returning with valuable insights to implement and share. Scott is also a member of the YMCA’s national Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT).    

Scott is originally from Nottingham, UK; brought to New Zealand by the Wanganui City Football Club for which he is both a player and coach. He has recently become a father, and his family share his passions, which include spending time with friends and doing outdoor and other sporting activities.

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027 511 2400


Phill Smith – Outdoors Manager

Phill brings over eight years’ experience in the outdoors and youth develop sectors to this role. He works with youth to help them gain life skills as well as recognised qualifications. An important focus during his work with youth is helping them re-engage with education and assessing their requirements for further learning and achievement. Phill oversees the successful operation of our Camp Raukawa Adventure Centre, handling all aspects of programme management and administration.  

Phill has a qualification in adult education and training, and has a comprehensive understanding of outdoors and youth development sectors systems and requirements.  

Outside work Phill enjoys spending time sharing his passions for outdoor recreation, and coaching the disciplines of martial arts.

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027 268 8590


Aleisha Rutherford Recreation Development Manager, Palmerston North

This essential role oversees the delivery and development of all programmes and activities at the YMCA in Palmerston North. Strategically these programmes and activities include: Early Years, Out of School Care, Youth, Sports, Rock Climbing, Seniors and Volunteers.  Aleisha has been working with young people in Palmerston North for the past five years. She holds a Diploma in Youth Work and is qualified to assess and deliver NZQA youth focused qualifications.

Aleisha is serving her first term as a Palmerston North City Councillor. Aleisha is the Chairperson of the Palmerston North Youth Sector Network, and does volunteer work with organisations such as Arohanui Hospice, MASH Trust, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Special Olympics.

Aleisha is a strong advocate for using a holistic approach to connecting families through recreation, encompassing youth empowerment, social responsibility and healthy living.

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027 599 4695

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