Ministry for the Environment Te Pūrengi Leadership team

Meet our Te Pūrengi leadership team.

James Palmer – Secretary for the Environment and Chief Executive

James Palmer is the Secretary for the Environment (from 1 March 2023).

Since 2017 he has been Chief Executive of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, having previously served as the Council’s Group Manager Strategic Development, responsible for regional planning. During this time James has been involved in national policy development on freshwater and resource management reform, a member of the Forestry Ministerial Advisory Group and a board member of the Sustainable Seas and Deep South national science challenges.

Prior to working at the Council, James was Deputy Secretary Sector Strategy at MfE and Director Strategy at both the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry before that. Between 2005 and 2008 James served as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity and was an advisor in the Labour-led government between 1999 and 2003 including on resource management, climate change and energy policy.

Dr Alison Collins – Kaitohutohu Mātanga Pūtaiao Matua

Alison, intrigued from an early age about how the world works, studied soil science (the mysterious universe beneath our feet) and geomorphology (how landscapes evolve). Seeing many different soils and landscapes became a passion and took her on a journey from the UK, around Europe and into Mississippi before landing almost 15 years ago in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Alison spent 12 years working for Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research, leading a portfolio of science around ecosystems, soils, land use and informatics. During her time with Manaaki Whenua, Alison worked with regional councils and central government agencies to understand and prioritise their science needs. She also worked with the science community to find ways in which to facilitate better uptake and use of science. In this capacity she established and became director of a centre for integrating data and science-based tools, facilitating clear and engaging communication.

Alison joined MfE in August 2017 as Departmental Chief Science Advisor.  Still passionate about enabling wise use of science, her role is focused on ensuring ‘valued and trusted science for environmental stewardship’. On a day-to-day basis this means translating complex science, helping to navigating the science system so decision-makers can better access and use the excellent research being done, and building capability at the science to policy interface.

Anne Haira – Deputy Secretary, Climate Policy, and Partnerships and Public Affairs

Anne has had a rich and diverse career spanning the public and private sectors and has developed a strong track record of building strategic partnerships. She is part of the executive leadership team at MfE where she leads the Climate Policy division and Partnerships and Public Affairs division. A core focus of her role as leader of Partnerships and Public Affairs is to tangibly shift mindsets and change behaviors in New Zealand through effective partnering and engagement within the public and private sectors.

Anne joined the Ministry from Primary ITO where she was part of the senior leadership team focused on growing workforce capability within the primary industries. She led a large national field team responsible for customer and industry relationships, sales and operational delivery. Prior to that, she pioneered Fonterra's Māori Strategy and the strategic development of Fonterra's relationships with Māori.

She began her career in government and held policy roles at the Ministry of Economic Development and Te Puni Kokiri (Ministry of Māori Development). She has also worked overseas for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in New Caledonia as well as the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs in Vancouver, Canada. Anne affiliates to Te Arawa and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and lives in Wellington.

Janine Smith – Deputy Secretary, Natural and Built System and Climate Mitigation

To achieve quality, liveable environments in New Zealand we need to ensure our planning regime becomes more agile, while providing a level of certainty to enable investment opportunities. 

Janine leads this important work. She brings extensive experience and expertise in environmental policy issues and in building partnerships with natural resource sector agencies and communities. 

Before taking up this acting role, Janine was the Director of Climate Change at MfE and led the development of the Zero Carbon Act. Janine is a mother of three young children.

Laura Dixon – Deputy Secretary, Organisational Performance 

Laura is the Deputy Secretary Organisational Performance and Chief Operating Officer at MfE. She is responsible for ensuring MfE has a compelling strategy and operating model, and for building the capability and leadership of the organisation to give effect to this strategy.

Laura has worked at MfE since 2019. Prior to her current role as Chief Operating Officer, she was Director People & Capability. During this time Laura successfully led MfE through a period of significant growth and diversification of its workforce. She spearheaded the introduction of flexible and inclusive people practices and leadership development which have enabled MfE and its people to be resilient through change, deliver on a complex and fast-paced work programme, and grow our internal capacity, capability and confidence to partner with iwi/Māori.

Prior to joining MfE, Laura held a diverse range of leadership roles in the public sector. She has a proven track record of building and leading strong people functions that support organisations through periods of change and growth. Laura has a reputation for her clear and decisive leadership, excellent business acumen, and 'getting the job done'.

Martin Workman – Acting Deputy Secretary Tūmatakōkiri

Martin leads Tūmatakōkiri (Māori Rights and Interests, Policy and Science, Treaty Settlements and Partnerships) at MfE. He has been at Manatū Mō Te Taiao since 2016 working on such exciting things as improving the health of our waterways and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector.

Before working at MfE, Martin worked on freshwater policy for the Ministry for Primary Industries and held roles at the Ministry of Fisheries, Nelson City Council, Tasman District Council and Northland Federated Farmers focused on environmental management. Martin grew up in Kaitaia and affiliates with Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa.

Nadeine Dommisse – Deputy Secretary, Policy Implementation and Delivery

MfE wants to make sure the changes we design in our policy interventions actually happen and have the desired impact in practice. We have set up a new Sustainable Land Use Delivery function to help do this. It will ensure delivery of policies such as the NPS Freshwater, He Waka Eke Noa and budget funding for freshwater restoration.

Nadeine brings extensive experience in implementation and delivery working across central government, regional councils, district councils and catchment communities.

Before taking up this new role she was Chief Operating Officer and Director of Operations for Environment Canterbury. This involved leading delivery of implementation programmes across the full environmental landscape (including biodiversity, land, water, coasts and rivers) with communities. Previous roles have including leading the Coasts and Waterways unit at the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, leading coastal and marine environmental programmes and working within the private sector in environmental and social impact assessment.

Natasha Lewis – Deputy Secretary, Joint Evidence, Data and Insights Group

Natasha has worked at MfE since 2008, before that holding roles with the Wellington and Tasman Councils and a government role in Laos.

Natasha is an authentic leader who is committed to the environment sector and the opportunity that the ministry has to be at the forefront of real change. In partnership with Statistics NZ she leads our environmental reporting programme, and the growth of our engagement with young people.

Natasha has also represented New Zealand at the most recent OECD environmental performance review.

Sam Buckle – Deputy Secretary, Water Policy and Resource Efficiency

Sam leads our water policy division and resource efficiency programme. He brings a wealth of experience in policy as well as managing industry, media and government relationships. 

Sam’s career has included extensive periods working both inside Government and the commercial sector. He has worked for a number of Government agencies, including as a policy advisor within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He was also previously General Manager of Government and Stakeholder Affairs at Fonterra, Executive Director at the New Zealand Shipping Federation, as well as consultant for a major public relations consultancy.