BotanyLife is led by a group of elders who serve as the governing board of the church. The elders are responsible for all issues and decisions at the church, including ministry, finances, facilities, etc, although they are free to delegate various tasks to others.
The senior pastor serves on the elder board along with the other elders, and is responsible for implementing the elder boards decisions and providing day-to-day leadership to the church. Other pastors and staff members are hired by the elders to help lead and manage the church in particular areas of ministry.
Brad Carr | LEAD PASTOR / ELDER
Brad’s main responsibilities at BotanyLife are to provide overall visionary leadership to the church, lead the staff team, and serve as the primary Bible teacher during our Sunday services. Brad also looks after leadership development in the church, as well as doing some pastoral counselling as needed. Rochelle has served in lots of different areas over the years at BotanyLife, but is currently a community group shepherd and is part of our welcome and worship teams.
Brad and Rochelle have been married for more than twenty years, and they have three teenage sons, Harrison, Logan and Jaden. As a newly married couple they studied at Dallas Theological Seminary in the USA, and love going back to the States for a visit. Brad is a fanatical sports fan, supporting the All Blacks, the Warriors and his kids’ football teams.
Brad was brought up in a Christian home where his parents were highly involved in serving and leading in their local church. Brad came to realise he was a sinner aged around 9 or 10, and trusted in Christ. He was baptised as a teenager, and then rededicated his life to Jesus and committed to become a pastor as an 18 year old at an Easter Camp.
Robin Byrne | WORSHIP & GROUPS PASTOR
Robin has lead worship for more than 25 years, and is super passionate about us giving God our best individually, as well as corporately on a Sunday morning. He is also responsible for approximately twenty Community Groups that we have going at BotanyLife. Robin is directly involved with the care of our groups, whilst seeking to start new groups and encourage everyone to be part of a Community Group and “do life together”.
Robin is originally from Herne Bay in the United Kingdom, where he met Sonia while she was on her OE. He followed her back “Downunder”, and they have now been happily married for over 20 years. Robin and Sonia have three children, Bjorn, Jai and Milla.
At a young age, Robin got involved with the Boys' Brigade, which at the time was run by some very godly and caring leaders. Over a period of a few years, Robin was impacted by God’s grace and gave his heart to the Lord at a Boys' Brigade camp when he was 17.
Mel Palmer | CHILDREN'S PASTOR
As Children’s Pastor at BotanyLife, Mel is responsible for planning church for our preschool and primary aged children. She is passionate about introducing kids to Jesus and making sure everyone knows our kids programmes are not just babysitting so the adults can do church – they are church for our kids!
Mel is married to Drew, and Mum to three great boys! Before starting a family Mel taught in primary school. After taking a break to be with her kids while they were small, she felt God’s call (or maybe it was Brad’s call!) to get involved with kids ministry at BotanyLife. She joined the staff team in 2011. Mel still enjoys school teaching from time to time but prefers to be able to share God’s story. Aside from her work with the kids of BotanyLife, she also loves helping our national partner Willow Park during their school holiday Kids Camps.
Mel has always been part of a church family and has always loved and appreciated the sense of intergenerational connection that church is able to provide. Her journey to faith was one of early exposure to the truths of the gospel and real personal acceptance and recognition of God’s great grace in her early teens.
Mark van Wijk | COMMUNITY PASTOR
As our Community Pastor, Mark is responsible for all spheres of outreach at BotanyLife – whether it’s running local events like our Community Project, serving a regional partner like Te Whakaora Tangata, supporting a national partner like Willow Park Camp, or leading our global strategy with Project Thailand – he’s passionate about helping all of us Purposefully Love Others. With his technical & design background Mark also responsible for our IT infrastructure, online presence and print design as well as our audio & visual teams. As a founding Trustee of BotanyLife Community Trust he is also part of the team that manages & operates our community centre – Kotahi.
Mark and his wife Steph were married in 1998, and have three awesome kids – Ethan, Joel & Renee. After studying Business Computing at MIT, Mark’s first career was with Carter Holt Harvey, where he worked for 11 years in a variety of roles, but primarily in IT. In early 2006 he & Steph followed God’s call into fulltime ministry – joining the BotanyLife staff team.
Mark was raised in South Auckland, and having attended church there with his family from the time he was born, Mark came to faith in Christ at a young age whilst he was at a kids camp at Moirs Point in Northland. He often reflects on how God used a few key men in his life at strategic times to shape, encourage & challenge him. Having been on the receiving end of such quality mentoring, Mark is committed to building similar relationships with other young men.
Mel Thorburn | KOTAHI MANAGER / COMMUNICATIONS
As the manager of our community centre Kotahi, Melanie spends her two-and-a-half days each week organising invoicing, managing community centre bookings. These typical day-to-day activities are interspersed by church administration tasks such as putting the weekly church bulletin together and keeping the church database up-to-date.
Melanie is married to Julian and they have three children aged 8-12. Julian works locally for NZ Post at East Tamaki, whilst Melanie juggles the part-time office role at the church office with the demands of a busy household.
Although not raised in a Christian home, Melanie attended a range of different churches with family friends growing up. It was not until her adult years when she attended an Alpha course through Julian’s parents’ church that she came to faith.
Mel Dunford | EVENTS MANAGER / RECEPTION
The third Melanie Jane to join our office, Mel keeps busy with a wide variety of tasks! As well as taking care of reception, she is responsible for Sunday administration and organisation. Mel also blends her creative and planning skills to organise the various regular and one-off events that we run – from Profile dinners to Connect events such as quiz nights.
Mel grew up in Shropshire, England. She has been living in New Zealand since the late 90s, and has two children: Ella (aged 7) and Josh (aged 10).
Mel came to faith at 8, around the same time as her mother and two older sisters. She renewed her faith in her later adult years after an Alpha course, and was baptised soon after. She is now committed to going deeper with God and following His path for her life.
Charlotte Gray | TRUST ADMINISTRATOR / PORTAL EDITOR
Charlotte manages the everyday running of accounts for the Church, as well as handling general administration for the Church’s charitable Trust. Within her three days a week, this might include paying bills or applying for funding for Trust events such our annual community project! Her journalism experience comes in handy for her editor role on the church magazine Portal.
Originally from Christchurch, Charlotte met her husband Nathanael while at a Bible study camp on Ponui Island; a small island east of Auckland. They were married in January 2014. They have recently returned to New Zealand after spending two years living in London.
Privileged to grow up in a Christian family and with a rich Christian family heritage, Charlotte chose to make a personal faith commitment aged 15.
Todd is a local Howickian, growing up through Cockle Bay Primary and Howick College. After school he found work in the horticulture industry in the Bay Of Plenty, before returning to Howick in 1987, and marrying Sheree in 1993. Todd and Sheree have two teenage daughters. Todd and Sheree are involved in a garlic growing business, including all aspects of market gardening, with weather and seasonal requirements of planting and harvest seasons, along with national and international sales trips.
Since coming to BotanyLife in 2005, both Todd and Sheree have led community groups, been involved with the welcome team and church set up teams, and helped with the all community projects since then. Todd is a practical hands on sort of character and can be found hunting or fishing or just doing practical jobs around the place in the weekends.
Todd started going to church in Howick in his teenage years and gave his heart to the Lord in 1978. He was baptised in Te Puke in 1982.
Stuart is married to Ianthe and they have three children; Callahan, Brooklyn and Xavier. He is a Respiratory and Sleep Physician working out of Middlemore Hospital. In his free-time he enjoys playing and watching sport, although these days seems to spend most of the time carting his children to various activities.
In addition to serving as an elder, Stuart and Ianthe run a community group (South Community group). Stuart is also involved in teaching in the Sunday morning service as well as a member of the set-up and pack-down teams. Ianthe serves as the Pastoral Care Director for the church, a volunteer coordination role to ensure people are looked after well during tough times.
Stuart was fortunate enough to grow up in a strong Christian home where his parents were great role models of the faith. Although Stuart became a Christian as a young child, a defining moment in his early Christian walk came when his father died in a car accident – this became a catalyst for deepening his personal walk with God.
Andre is married to Christl, and they have two daughters, Carmen and Kasia. Andre and his family originate from South Africa which has influenced their love for the outdoors. Originally qualified as a Naval Officer, he is now a structural engineer and Technical Director at Beca where he has led the design of some of the largest tertiary and medical buildings in Auckland and Christchurch.
When BotanyLife started up Andre led the set up and pack down team for 8 years. Other than ushering and looking after the general collection, Andre has a real passion for the members of the Pathways community group he leads with Christl, which has been running for over 10 years. He has also been the roving photographer at many of our events as well as leading teams at our annual Community Project, while Christl heads up our morning tea team on Sunday mornings.
Andre came to faith at a youth rally during his final year at school. His journey has been one of slow learning and growth, and he likens his early development to that of the apostle Peter, full of love but not always understanding. Andre and Christl were part of BotanyLife’s parent church, Auckland Bible Church, and were some of the founding members of BotanyLife.
KK is married to Susan and they have two girls who are in their early teens. KK and Susan originally came from Malaysia and they have been in New Zealand for 9 years. He works as a Quantity Surveyor and Susan is a homemaker.
Besides serving as an elder, KK leads a men’s community group called “Ironmen.” He is also on the team that leaves midway through our church services to teach at Xchange, the intermediate kids program at BotanyLife. Susan serves as a community group shepherd, caring for some of our group leaders, and is also part of our welcome and mainly music teams.
Coming from a non-Christian background, KK learned about Jesus through a youth group in Malaysia and he came to faith in Jesus when he was in high school.
Ko Ngāti Kahungunu taku iwi, ko Takitimu taku waka, ko Kahuranaki taku maunga, Harataki Kahungunu Manihera taku ingoa married to Shona. They have five children (two sons and three daughters) and six grandchildren. Harataki currently works for the Ministry of Education Auckland as a Positive Behaviour for Learning practitioner delivering and training staff in both English and Māori medium schools.
Harataki has just returned onto the elder board after a two and a half year sabbatical. Harataki and Shona co-lead the Aroha community group alongside Rowland and Elaine Forman. They are also involved with providing support to couples either on their marae back in Hawkes Bay, or more widely amongst the Māori community. Harataki is also a member of “The Redeemed Motorcycle Ministry”.
Harataki came from a traditional Mormon family, which he left after his mum passed away. He grew up with an awareness of God but like many young Māori men back in the 1970’s he didn’t pursue that and instead chased after alcohol, drugs and a good time. After more than a decade, things were spirally downward for himself and his marriage and God literally intervened and saved him. His Christian brother-in-law shared John 3:16 one weekend after a long binge of drugs and alcohol, and God found him in the midst of all of that.
Steve is happily married to Robyn, who is a Reading Recovery teacher. They have two awesome teenage boys, Adam and Carl, who are currently studying at Elim College. Steve works as an accountant and business advisor at RSM New Zealand, a chartered accounting firm based in Highbrook.
Steve contributes to the Sunday morning teaching. As well as this, he and Robyn lead Explore, a course designed for people wanting to check out Christianity and ask questions about the reality of God, the person of Jesus and what this all means to us today. Their aim is to create a safe place for seekers to bring their questions about God and Jesus, and hopefully discover why so many millions of people have entrusted themselves to Him. Robyn also leads the LOL women’s community group.
Steve was raised as an atheist so never attended church as he grew up. In his first job after school, he had a two year discussion (well, argument ) with his boss regarding the existence of God and the claims of Christianity. Through this, he came to discover the evidence for Christianity, as well as the amazing peace and hope that Jesus offers anyone who will consider His claims and put their faith in Him.