Senior leadership team
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 – Acting Deputy Director-General (DDG) Biosecurity New Zealand
- Bryan Wilson – DDG New Zealand Food Safety
- Julie Collins – DDG Te Uru Rākau
- Dan Bolger – DDG Fisheries New Zealand
- Karen Adair – DDG Agriculture and Investment Services
- Tim Knox – DDG China Relations
- Ruth Fairhall – Acting DDG Policy and Trade
- Vince Arbuckle – DDG Compliance and Governance
- Neil Cherry – DDG Corporate Services
- Gillon Carruthers – DDG Public Affairs
- Dr John Roche – Chief Science Adviser
- Debby Butler – Inspector Genaral 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he was the Deputy Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development's Child, Youth and Family, an agency which was superseded by Oranga Tamariki.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.
Acting Deputy Director-General Biosecurity New Zealand
Penny joined the Ministry for Primary Industries as the Deputy Director-General Policy and Trade in August 2018.
With almost 20 years' experience in public policy, Penny has worked across a range of portfolio areas including environment, economic development, and social development. Prior to joining MPI, Penny was the 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.
Penny 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
Bryan joined the Ministry for Primary Industries in October 2016. Before joining MPI, he held the role of Associate Deputy Chief Executive Community Investment with the Ministry for Social Development.
Bryan's background is in regulation across a range of industries. He spent 2 years with Aurizon Network in Brisbane and 10 years in leadership roles within Telecom. He has also held various positions with The Treasury, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, New Zealand Employment Service, and Department of Internal Affairs.
He is responsible for MPI's regulatory activities and functions across the food safety, biosecurity, and primary production systems (including animal welfare).
Deputy Director-General Te Uru Rākau
Julie has a Bachelor of Forestry Science and more than 30 years' experience in forestry and land use policy. She previously worked for the New Zealand Forest Service and its successor, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. This work involved the valuation of Crown forests, conservation policy for indigenous forests on private land, and incorporating forestry and agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme.
Julie also spent 15 years in the UK and held a senior role with the Forestry Commission, leading one of four England Forestry Strategy programmes. She worked with the forest industry to identify and solve their business issues and led work on renewable energy, grant development, and sustainability initiatives.
Deputy Director-General Fisheries New Zealand
Dan first joined the organisation in 1986 as an agricultural economist for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).
In his previous role as Deputy Director-General of MAF's 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.
Acting Deputy Director-General Policy and Trade
Ruth joined MPI in November 2018 and her substantive position is Director, Data, Insights and Forestry Policy in Policy and Trade. Before joining MPI Ruth spent most of her career at the Ministry of Justice in policy roles, most recently as the General Manager, Courts and Justice Services Policy.
Deputy Director-General Compliance and Governance
Vincent joined the Ministry for Primary Industries in November 2018. Prior to this, he held senior roles in Corrections, the New Zealand Fire Service, and AXA New Zealand. As Deputy Director-General Compliance and Governance he is responsible for MPI's compliance function, strategy, internal audit and risk, legal services, and the public service's functional lead for Health and Safety.
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.
Chief Science Adviser
John was appointed Chief Scientist in June 2018 to provide strategic science advice across MPI. He leads the organisation's Science Forum, which works to promote MPI's scientific expertise. John chairs the independent Mycoplasma bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group, set up to help accelerate eradication of this devastating cattle disease from New Zealand, and the Kauri Dieback Strategic Science Advisory Group which focuses on the science needed to protect Aotearoa's kauri. He is also 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 with the National Centre for Dairy Production Research in Ireland, the Department of Primary Industries in Australia, and the University of Tasmania. 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.
Media needing images of members of the senior leadership team can download these files:
Ray Smith [JPG, 729 KB]
Bryan Wilson [JPG, 1.1 MB]
Dan Bolger [JPG, 658 KB]
Karen Adair [JPG, 808 KB]
Tim Knox [JPG, 1.9 MB]
Penny Nelson [JPG, 698 KB]
Ruth Fairhall [JPG, 2.1 MB]
Dr John Roche [JPG, 880 KB]
Neil Cherry [JPG, 950 KB]
Gillon Carruthers [JPG, 950 KB]
Debby Butler [JPG, 1.9 MB]
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