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Access Ability and Life Unlimited to merge

Two leading national disability organisations will merge from July 1, 2021. 

Life Unlimited and Access Ability, both charitable trusts with a long involvement in the health and disability sector across New Zealand, say the merger will position them as a new organisation for the future which includes upholding the rights of disabled people to take control of their own lives. 

The need to ensure Enabling Good Lives principles are at the heart of the new organisation, and the ability to do this over a wider area guided trustees’ decision-making, say chairs John Dobson (Life Unlimited) and Rachel Stephenson (Access Ability). 


Life Unlimited chief executive Megan Thomas will lead the new entity while Access Ability CE Tony Paine will be deputy CE and lead the new organisation’s business development, business services, and advocacy arms. 

An independent interim chair will be appointed and six trustees, drawn from the existing trusts, will provide governance from July 1.  

Read: Independent Chair Advertisement and Interim Independent Chair Position Description

“Together we want an organisation that is fit for the future and responding to transformed thinking of how to uphold the rights and meet the needs of disabled people and their whānau,” says Ms Thomas.

Since November last year, Access Ability and Life Unlimited have worked together by combining their NASC and LAC teams under a shared national manager. 

“Working in this way highlighted the advantages for both of us,” says Mr Paine. 

There would be no staff redundancies or office closures. 

Life Unlimited would remain the interim name for the new organisation but work would begin immediately on a consultation process with staff, service users and stakeholders to consider the best name for the trust and its sub-brands to effectively position the new organisation.  

The process would involve staff and clients, said Ms Thomas. 

About Access Ability and Life Unlimited 

  • Access Ability employs 50 people to provide Needs Assessment and Service Coordination (NASC) and Local Area Coordination (LAC) services in Otago, Southland, Whanganui, Taranaki, and Bay of Plenty through Ministry of Health and DHB contracts. 
  • In addition, it owns Imagine Better a separate charitable company which provides research, training and advocacy on disability-related topics and issues, and Journey Together providing Local Area Co-ordination services in the Bay of Plenty/Lakes District. 
  • Life Unlimited employs 80 people and holds several government contracts to provide autism, hearing and disability services and information; provide NASC and LAC disability support in Hutt Valley and Tairāwhiti and community programmes in the Waikato. 
  • It also operates equipment and advice stores under the brand ‘Mobility Centre’ in Hamilton, Tauranga, Hastings and Lower Hutt as well as an Online Store. 


For further information contact: 

Mary Anne Gill, Communications Manager, 021 705 213 

Megan Thomas, Chief Executive, Life Unlimited 027 440 8554 

Tony Paine, Chief Executive, AccessAbility 027 246 0177

Megan Thomas
Megan Thomas became Life Unlimited chief executive in November 2019. Megan’s career in the health, disability and social service sectors was in developing the leadership and skills of organisations committed to social justice and to bringing commercial skills to bear effectively in social enterprises. She held senior management roles in the not for profit sector, including Birthright New Zealand and CCS Disability Action. Megan was on Oranga Tamariki’s Workforce Working Group and the External Reporting Advisory Panel and she has also been a board member on various not for profit boards. She is a committee member of Needs Assessement and Service Coordination Association.
Tony Paine
Tony Paine became CEO of Imagine Better late in 2018. He has over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit leadership and management working in the health, social service and cultural sectors. Tony’s career includes work with the NZ AIDS Foundation, the Christchurch Methodist Mission, and as CEO of Comcare Trust, the Christchurch Arts Centre, Victim Support, New Zealand Red Cross and Philanthropy New Zealand. Tony served on the Board of Housing New Zealand for 5 years, has a Masters in Management and lives in Wellington with his partner Bernadette Macartney and their two daughters Maggie and Sally. Tony’s passion for inclusion, human rights advocacy and disability justice has been enriched by life with Maggie who has intellectual and physical ‘disabilities’.

Suggest an edit for Access Ability and Life Unlimited to merge

Suggest an edit for Access Ability and Life Unlimited to merge