Senior leadership team at MPI
The Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI's) senior leadership team oversees the ministry's strategic direction.
On this page:
- Ray Smith – Director-General
- Penny Nelson – Deputy Director-General (DDG) Biosecurity New Zealand
- Vincent Arbuckle – DDG New Zealand Food Safety
- Jason Wilson – DDG Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service
- Dan Bolger – DDG Fisheries New Zealand
- Karen Adair – DDG Agriculture and Investment Services
- Tim Knox – DDG China Relations
- Julie Collins – DDG Policy and Trade
- Neil Cherry – DDG Corporate Services
- Gillon Carruthers – DDG Public Affairs
- Andrew McConnell – DDG Compliance and Governance
- Dr John Roche – Chief Science Adviser
- Debby Butler – Inspector General Regulatory Systems
- Image files for media use
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he was the Deputy Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development's Child, Youth and Family, an agency which was superseded by Oranga Tamariki.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.
Deputy Director-General Biosecurity New Zealand
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.
Deputy Director-General New Zealand Food Safety
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.
Deputy Director-General Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service
Jason joined MPI in early 2020 as Director of Sector Investment, Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service. In this role he led work on strengthening the forestry and wood processing supply chain, and on the Forestry and Wood Products Industry Transformation Plan.
Jason's experience in the forestry and wood processing industry began with selling prefabricated timber solutions to builders in the 1990s. He went on to hold senior leadership roles with several wood product manufacturers and distributors.
With over 25 years of experience across the forestry and wood processing sector in Australia and New Zealand, Jason brings strong industry experience to the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Deputy Director-General Fisheries New Zealand
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.
Deputy Director-General Agriculture and Investment Services
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.
Deputy Director-General China Relations
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.
Deputy Director-General Policy and Trade
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.
Deputy Director-General Corporate Services
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.
Deputy Director-General Public Affairs
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.
Deputy Director-General Compliance and Governance
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.
Chief Science Adviser
John was appointed Chief Science Adviser in June 2018 to provide an independent science perspective to MPI. He leads our Science Forum, chairs the Science Governance Group at MPI and the independent Mycoplasma bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group. John 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.
Inspector General, Regulatory Systems
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)
- 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.
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]
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