Senior leadership team at MPI

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) senior leadership team oversees the ministry’s strategic direction.

Ray Smith


Ray Smith
Ray Smith

Ray Smith is Director-General of MPI, appointed to the role on 1 November 2018.

Ray served as Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections from 2010 to 2018.

Prior to this, he was the Deputy Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development's Child, Youth and Family, an agency which was superseded by Oranga Tamariki.

In August 2017, Ray was appointed as Government Health and Safety Lead by the State Services Commissioner.


Penny Nelson

Deputy Director-General Biosecurity New Zealand

Photo of Penny Nelson
Penny Nelson

Penny is Deputy Director-General for Biosecurity New Zealand. Penny joined the Ministry for Primary Industries in 2018 as Deputy Director-General Policy and Trade, where she led work shaping the future of the primary sector to enhance sustainability and growth. 

Penny has worked across a range of areas of government including the environment, economic development, and social development. Before joining MPI, Penny was Deputy Secretary at the Ministry for the Environment where she was responsible for climate change, the marine environment, environmental reporting, and the science system.

Penny has also worked within the private and science sectors including roles at DairyNZ, the Sustainable Business Council, and Landcare Research. She holds a Masters of Science in resource management (Honours) from Lincoln University and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of Otago.


Vincent Arbuckle

Deputy Director-General New Zealand Food Safety

Vince Arbuckle - Deputy Director-General – Compliance and Governance
Vincent Arbuckle

Vincent joined the Ministry for Primary Industries in November 2018 and currently leads New Zealand Food Safety. Prior to this, he was Deputy Director-General Compliance and Governance, and held senior roles in Corrections, the New Zealand Fire Service, and AXA New Zealand.


Henry Weston

Deputy Director-General Te Uru Rākau

Henry Weston
Henry Weston

Henry joined the Ministry for Primary Industries as Director, Forest Development, Grants and Partnerships at Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand) in January 2020.

Before joining MPI, Henry worked as Group Manager, Operations for Rotorua Lakes District Council where he was responsible for a large operational team and capital works programme, including successfully implementing Provincial Growth Fund projects to support the development of the district.

Henry is a lawyer by training, starting his working life as a commercial litigation lawyer in Wellington, working for the Ombudsman, in policy positions, and spending a number of years working in the Treaty negotiation area where he worked on most of the early settlement discussions.


Dan Bolger

Deputy Director-General Fisheries New Zealand

Dan Bolger - Deputy Director-General Office of the Director-General
Dan Bolger

Dan first joined the organisation in 1986 as an agricultural economist for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

In his previous role as Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s (MAF) Strategy and Performance Group, Dan was responsible for leading MAF's corporate strategy management, organisational planning and performance, internal governance support, risk and assurance, and communications functions.

Dan has an extensive background with MAF’s policy team, where he focused on issues affecting the economic performance of agriculture and forestry.


Karen Adair

Deputy Director-General Agriculture and Investment Services 

Karen Adair
Karen Adair

Karen has held a number of senior roles in a career spanning 25 years. As Deputy Director-General Agriculture and Investment Services, Karen is responsible for the strategic oversight and delivery of a wide range of programmes. These include initiatives to promote innovation and sustainable economic growth, develop Māori agribusinesses, build resilient communities, and care for the health and wellbeing of animals. Karen also holds a cross-government role as the Senior Regional Official for Otago.

Karen was seconded to MPI as Deputy Director-General Sector Partnerships and Programmes in September 2018, and was appointed to her current role on 1 July 2019. Prior to this, Karen was Deputy Chief Executive, Policy and Sector Performance at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. She has also held senior roles within The Treasury, MPI, and the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.


Tim Knox

Deputy Director-General China Relations

Tim Knox - Deputy Director-General – China Relations
Tim Knox

Tim Knox leads MPI’s 5-member team based at the New Zealand Embassy in Beijing, China.

Tim has over 38 years’ experience working in the areas of biosecurity, food safety, and international trade, and has held a range of senior roles within MPI and its predecessor organisations over that time.

During his career, Tim has worked closely with counterparts in the China system and has led MPI’s engagement with China on sanitary and phytosanitary matters for the last 10 years. During his time in Beijing, he will focus on continuing to strengthen cooperation with our Chinese counterparts.


Julie Collins

Deputy Director-General Policy and Trade

Julie Collins – DDG Policy and Trade
Julie Collins

Julie has more than 30 years’ experience in primary industries and resource use policy here and in the UK. She has led senior roles in climate change, the Emissions Trading Scheme, forestry, biosecurity, animal welfare and food policy. Recently she led Te Uru Rākau, a new MPI branch, and has also worked in the food safety standards area.

Over the years, she has worked in the New Zealand Forest Service, the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Julie also spent 15 years in the UK, working for the UK Government on Community Forestry, Common Agriculture Policy Reform and Rural Development initiatives.


Neil Cherry

Deputy Director-General Corporate Services

Neil Cherry
Neil Cherry

Neil is the Deputy Director-General, Corporate Services at the Ministry for Primary Industries. He is a fellow Chartered Accountant of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and a member of the Centre for Accounting, Governance and Taxation Research Board. Neil’s career has been built around roles in audit, financial, and now executive management, principally within and across the wider public sector.

Prior to joining MPI, Neil spent 5 years at the Department of Corrections as the Deputy Chief Executive – Finance, Property and Technology.

He was an inaugural member of the External Reporting Board when it was established as a Crown entity in 2011 and chaired the New Zealand Auditing and Assurance Standards Board between 2011 and 2016. Neil is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington.


Gillon Carruthers

Deputy Director-General Public Affairs

Gillon Carruthers
Gillon Carruthers

Gillon joined MPI to lead the newly-established Public Affairs branch in July 2019.

Gillon has extensive media, political, and public service experience. Following a lengthy career as a journalist, notably with the BBC and Radio New Zealand, Gillon spent 7 years as a ministerial press secretary in Parliament.

Prior to joining MPI, Gillon was General Manager, Public Affairs at Corrections, where he led the media, ministerials, and strategic communications teams.


Andrew McConnell

Deputy Director-General Compliance and Governance

Andrew McConnell - Deputy Director-General Regulation and Assurance
Andrew McConnell

Andrew (Ngati Porou) joined the Ministry for Primary Industries in January 2018 as Director Māori Agribusiness. As Deputy Director-General Compliance and Governance, he is responsible for MPI’s compliance function, strategy, internal audit and risk, and legal services. Prior to this, he held leadership and management roles in the Department of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Justice (Office of Treaty Settlements) and the Office of the Auditor-General.


Dr John Roche

Chief Science Adviser

Dr John Roche - Chief Science Adviser
Dr John Roche

John was appointed Chief Science Adviser in June 2018 to provide an independent science perspective to MPI. He leads the organisation's Science Forum, which works to promote MPI's scientific expertise.

John chairs the Science Governance Group at MPI and the independent Mycoplasma bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group. He is also a member of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser’s forum and is an adjunct professor in University of Auckland's School of Biological Sciences.

John was previously DairyNZ's Principal Scientist for Animal Science. He has held science appointments in Ireland and Australia. He is also Managing Director of Down to Earth Advice Ltd.

Widely published and a regular contributor to international science and farming conferences, John has an Honours degree in Agricultural Science, a Masters in Farm Systems and Pasture Management, and a PhD in Animal Nutrition.


Debby Butler

Inspector General, Regulatory Systems

A head and shoulders picture of Debby Butler, in a black dress and in front of a plain cream-coloured wall.
Debby Butler

Debby stepped into the newly-established role of Inspector General on 14 October 2019. Prior to taking on this new role, she’d spent 8 months acting in the role of Director Audit, Risk, and Evaluation in the Compliance and Governance business unit at MPI.

Previously, Debby’s held senior management roles in ACC (the Accident Compensation Corporation) and the Department of Corrections.

Debby has experience in audit, risk, corporate governance, directorship, and has a wealth of commercial experience from:

  • within SOEs (state-owned enterprises)
  • consulting
  • the financial industry.

Risk and Assurance Committee

Risk and Assurance Committee advises the Director General on MPI’s internal control functions, legislative compliance, risk management, governance, and integrity functions. It also has input into MPI’s internal and external audit activities. Members of this committee include: Geoff Dangerfield (Chair), Dr Helen Anderson, Steven Fyfe, Traci Houpapa, and Kim Wallace.

Image files for media use

Media needing images of members of the senior leadership team can download these files:

Ray Smith [JPG, 729 KB]

Penny Nelson [JPG, 42 KB]

Dan Bolger [JPG, 658 KB]

Karen Adair [JPG, 808 KB]

Tim Knox [JPG, 1.9 MB]

Neil Cherry [JPG, 950 KB]

Gillon Carruthers [JPG, 950 KB]

Dr John Roche [JPG, 880 KB]

Debby Butler [JPG, 1.9 MB]

Find out more

MPI's organisational structure

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