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Let’s give a huge high five to NZCT

We’re pleased to welcome NZCT as our new Principal Supporter. This year NZCT has committed to providing another five scholarships; that’s five more lives forever changed, along with those of five more whānau, communities and many future colleagues.

Mike Knell, Chief Executive of NZCT – New Zealand Community Trust, says First Foundation’s programme aligns perfectly with NZCT’s focus on ensuring Kiwis have an equal chance to compete or succeed, regardless of their circumstances. 

“We’ve supported the First Foundation since 2009 and a total of 53 Scholars. I’ve seen the great outcomes that happen as a result of our funding, the First Foundation programme and the people behind it. The value created by supporting these young people to develop professionally and thrive is, simply put, fantastic.”

NZCT’s impact reaches right around Aotearoa

Mike’s praise means a lot because NZCT supports about 2000 charities in New Zealand annually. These include independent sports teams, life-saving and rescue services, community groups, arts and culture organisations.

NZCT is one of the largest not-for-profit organisations in New Zealand. Each year, NZCT distributes over $45m from its host venues and gaming machines to Kiwi charities. The experience and process behind NZCT’s funding decisions is significant.  

In 2006, NZCT pioneered the development of Regional Advisory Committees whose members advise on distributing gaming funds in their communities. These committees are made up of highly respected leaders who add local insight and knowledge to our grants consideration process and ultimately trustee decision-making. 

NZCT grants focus on making a difference

At the governance level, NZCT has a professional and well-respected board. The members have an eye for organisations and people that are making a difference and a genuine impact.

Mike says,

“Some people don’t like gambling. I understand and fully respect that. However, if we simply remove all pokie machines, people will still gamble; possibly online where there are fewer controls and less support. The immense good that comes from the funds we distribute would also be lost.”

Mike says his entire team enjoys seeing the good that comes from supporting First Foundation Scholars.

“It’s just absolutely amazing to see these young people have the chance to go to university, become such capable adults and succeed in their careers. Ultimately, they make a great contribution back to their communities and society.

“Through the First Foundation programme, we see ambitious and talented young students become mature adults with professional careers as doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and in many other professions. There’s something very special about it.

“We know our support of the First Foundation helps give these scholars an equal opportunity to attend university, develop and create the futures they deserve. I’d encourage other organisations to add their support for even more Scholars.”

Mike says First Foundation realises an important vision

Mike, who himself graduated, albeit in later life, with an MBA from Massey University, says First Foundation’s programme brings to mind a quote that he often references. It’s from a John F Kennedy speech to a group of university graduates in 1963. He said that although all of us do not have equal talent, all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talent. 

To Mike, this sentiment also sums up the motivation of First Foundation’s founder Steven Carden.


With the support of Mike and NZCT, we’re proud to be helping make this vision of equal opportunity a reality.

Above are just some of the 53 Scholars supported by NZCT over the years.