The J R McKenzie Trust has launched the Peter McKenzie Project (PMP), a $17m fund established to reduce child, family and whānau poverty in Aotearoa.

PMP is supporting a small number of big Ideas designed to lead to long term systemic change. We are offering funding over a 20-year period so these Ideas can be developed, tested and brought to life.

For us, success will mean a better understanding of what works to reduce poverty, and a reduction in the number of children, young people and families living in poverty.

Children and families living in hardship

Today, 28% of Kiwi kids are living in a low-income household where their family and whānau struggle to provide them with the basics needed to allow them to flourish, such as food, shoes and a warm house.  That is one in every four children in New Zealand. This number has more than doubled over the past 30 years.

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Peter McKenzie Project (PMP)

PMP aims to contribute to a significant reduction in the number of children/tamariki, rangatahi/young people, and families and whānau living in hardship and poverty.

We want all children to have a chance to live a life filled with opportunities to thrive and flourish.  We want to ensure that tomorrow’s tamariki don’t suffer the sometimes life-long effects of living in poverty.

We are interested in improving systems that affect the circumstances in which people live.

Systems change

Reducing the number of children, their family and whānau living in poverty is a complex challenge.

We believe systems change is an important approach to reducing poverty in a lasting way.

We are particularly interested in:

  • systems which effect family income such as taxes, benefits, the factors that determine wage and salary levels, the ability to save, access to decent jobs and to capital; and
  • features of systems which make a poverty-free life harder to achieve for some groups than others.

About Us

  • Peter McKenzie

    Peter McKenzie, a grandson of Sir John McKenzie, was instrumental in establishing and leading the Jayar Trust, which funds the Peter McKenzie Project. Peter wanted the fund to make a substantial difference to the lives of New Zealanders. He seeded the idea of spending all of the Trust’s funds on one area of focus over a period of up to 20 years.  Sadly, Peter died in 2012.  The project has been named in his honour.

Initiatives supported

Tokona te Raki: Māori Futures Collective

We are a new Ngāi Tahu-led collaborative established to increase Māori participation, success and progression in education and employment outcomes.

Our goal is to achieve equity in education, employment and income for all Ngāi Tahu and Māori in the Ngāi Tahu takiwā by 2040. We want to tackle poverty and inequality by ensuring our rangatahi are supported into the jobs of the future to become the rock stars of our community. Our legacy will be a world where all Māori are inspired by their futures, confident in their culture, prosperous in their careers and succeeding as Māori.

Our approach:

  1. Create transformational education & training pathways to connect whānau to the jobs of the future
  2. Work across education, employers, agencies & whānau to build an integrated careers system to boost Māori outcomes
  3. Move beyond business as usual by supporting partners to create new solutions, innovate, learn & adapt

Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga – a New Zealand Alliance

A new Alliance is forming in Aotearoa. It will be comprised of community, union, faith and other relevant groups from across civil society in Auckland. The purpose of this Alliance is to reduce child poverty by addressing the causes of poverty in families and communities, so the City of Auckland flourishes.

The Alliance is a broad-based community organisation that fosters active citizenship and civil society leaders with the ability to negotiate with decision-makers toward systemic and structural change. Communities know what is wrong, they know what has to change but to fix the way things currently work in Aotearoa requires a breadth of leadership from many organisations that gives voice to these issues, and disciplined organisation that ensures these voices are heeded.

The vision of the Alliance is to build a broad-based alliance that will bring a new community organising model to the challenge of growing community voice and power. This is a vision that gives hope that after 30 years of failure through deficit models of social change, something new can emerge. It aims to:

  • Facilitate the organisation of communities in Aotearoa toward a future where children and families flourish;
  • Encourage and promote systemic and structural change in Trust that will result in the alleviation of poverty;
  • Raise public awareness and understanding of the issues associated with well-being in the communities of Aotearoa;
  • Develop the capacity and skills of the members of communities to engage in active citizenship for the revitalisation of democracy.

WhyOra? Māori Health Careers

Our younger and faster growing age structure means Maori will make up an increasing proportion of the student population and workplace. However, inequity resides in the current system which is represented through lower educational and income outcomes for Maori. Unless strategies are embedded to address these issues, the current system will work to compound and replicate this inequity, creating a continuing cycle of marginalisation.

WhyOra aims to ensure the Taranaki health workforce is responsive to the needs of Māori through operationally and strategically developing Māori health workforce capacity and capability. Reducing inequalities in healthcare access and health outcomes requires both a robust Māori workforce and a culturally competent non-Māori health workforce who understand inequalities and what perpetuates them.

You can find out more about WhyOra at their website:

The Workshop: Using values, research, and story to build a more inclusive New Zealand

New Zealand can be a country in which all families thrive thrive. Researchers, advocates and practitioners work incredibly hard to create that future, but face significant barriers. Strong cultural beliefs and narratives about issues like poverty can prevent people from believing and acting on what we know is needed to create a better future for all families.

To build public and political support for the solutions supported by evidence, we need to offer people more accurate and compelling stories that explain family poverty and its solutions in a different and more cohesive way. Changes in expert communications lead to changes in the public conversation, which influences how people think, and ultimately to policy change.

The Workshop undertakes research to find ways of communicating that shift people's thinking to act on best evidence. We train people in different fields of practice to apply these ways of communicating. How do we do this?

We seek to understand.

Using mixed methods including interviews, focus groups and text analysis, we seek to understand:

  • the issues that matter to people, especially those who are most excluded;
  • the best evidence on solutions that work to achieve collective wellbeing; and
  • how the public currently understands and explains key problems and solutions.

We test new ways of communicating to motivate.

Using robust mixed methods of research, we develop and test messages, frames and new ways of communicating to ensure people in the public and policy see and act upon best evidence.

We share our learning.

We develop practical tools and train people across fields of practice. When experts and advocates across a fields of practice use the same effective messages, frames and stories, this leads to a change in discourse and people’s thinking about an issue.

You can find out more about The Workshop at their website:

The Committee

  • Jonathan Usher (Chair)

    A Rotary appointee on the J R McKenzie Trust, Jonathan is a businessman and entertainer, and volunteers for community organisations in his home town Dunedin.

  • Anna Kominik

    Communications expert, considerable experience in political and official circles.

  • Tracey McIntosh

    Ngāi Tūhoe, Tracey is a Professor at the University of Auckland with strong interests in marginalisation and crime. On multiple boards, Tracey co-chaired a seminal committee on solutions to child poverty.

  • Gael Surgenor

    Director of Community and Social Innovation for Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative, Gael is a highly respected social innovator.

  • Lani Evans

    Experience with youth and social enterprise, now manages the Vodafone Foundation where she is among the country’s most innovative leaders in philanthropy.

  • Mike O’Brien

    Mike O’Brien is an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland with recent research on child poverty, welfare reform and social services. He has been committed to reducing poverty for many years and is a leading member of the Child Poverty Action Group.


  • Jay Farris

    A first generation New Zealand born Samoan, Jay brings a wealth of knowledge about Pacific communities.  She has worked in community development and the education sector.

  • Melissa Campbell

    A Rotary appointee on the J R McKenzie Trust, Melissa is a practising lawyer with Māori and non-Māori whakapapa.

  • Te Wai Ariki Coulston

    Te Wai Ariki Coulston is Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou. Te Wai studies politics, economics, and Māori at the University of Auckland. He has held multiple leadership roles and was part of the McGuiness Institute’s Tackling Poverty NZ initiative, analysing the structural issues surrounding poverty.

  • Shana Malio-Satele

    Shana is a first-generation New Zealand born Samoan, and Director of the MATES youth mentoring programme for students from low-income communities. She was a recipient of a Vodafone New Zealand Foundation World of Difference Award.

  • Chris McKenzie (Observer)

    Chris is Peter McKenzie’s son, and a J R McKenzie Trustee.


Child poverty

Child poverty monitor:

Systems change

What Exactly Do We Mean by Systems?

Dan Vexler 22
June 2017 Stanford Innovation Review

This is a short article that discusses what exactly is meant when we talk about systems.

Systems change and how to do it

Rob Abercrombie, Ellen Harries and Rachel Wharton
June 2015 Lankelly Chase

This report aims to make sense of the literature, knowledge and learning about systems change to make it accessible. It is designed to be read by those who  want to embrace different ways of addressing societal challenges.

The Water of Systems Change

John Kania, Mark Kramer, Peter Senge
May 2018 FSG

The Water of Systems Change aims to clarify what it means to shift conditions and offers an actionable model for funders and others interested in creating systems change, particularly those who are working to advance equity.


To find out more about the Peter McKenzie Project, contact the J R McKenzie Trust.