Leadership team

This page provides information about the Ministry for the Environment's leadership team.

Vicky Robertson – Chief Executive

Vicky Robertson is the Secretary for the Environment, appointed in April 2015. An internationally experienced executive with a background in law and economics, Vicky is a champion for inclusive growth, transparency and accountability in the state sector. Before her appointment, Ms Robertson was a key member of the Treasury’s senior leadership team, where she held Deputy Chief Executive, Chief Operating Officer and Acting Secretary and Chief Executive positions. 

Ms Robertson has extensive experience across a range of complex policy frameworks. She represented the Treasury in several capacities, including the steering group that established the programme to deliver the Mixed Ownership Model for State Owned Enterprises. Her leadership experience extends to strategic organisational initiatives, such as the Treasury’s programme to develop stronger relationships with Maori. Her professional accomplishments also include a year’s secondment to the United Nations Development Programme, where she led a strategic and structural review of the organisation.

Vicky is passionate about diversity as a critical factor in high performing organisations and speaks regularly at business and industry forums. She has worked extensively with iwi throughout her career and in recent years has attended Treaty of Waitangi events as a senior representative. She has been involved in significant interdepartmental strategic policy programmes, including the Social Housing Programme, the establishment of KiwiSaver, the New Zealand National Retirement Savings Scheme and leading the group involved in a cross-departmental review of New Zealand’s Climate Change policy.

Cheryl Barnes – Deputy Secretary Organisational Performance & Operations, and Chief Operating Officer

Cheryl Barnes is Deputy Secretary Organisational Performance & Operations, and Chief Operating Officer. She leads the Legal, Human Resources, Procurement, Operations, IT, Project Management, Finance and Communications Directorates at the Ministry. Her responsibilities include developing and maintaining the infrastructure and corporate functions necessary to operate the Ministry and administration and delivery of environmental funding.

Cheryl brings experience in public sector leadership. Most recently she was Director of Budget and Public Services at the Treasury, where she led advice to Ministers on budget and fiscal policy, health, justice and social inclusion. She has previously worked on state sector reform, budget policy and organisational change. Cheryl holds a Masters of Public Policy from Victoria University and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Leeds University in the UK.

Jane Frances – Deputy Secretary Natural Resources Policy 

Jane Frances's responsibilities include strategy development, advice and monitoring of New Zealand’s water resources and the resource management system. Jane’s experience is in leadership of teams that develop policy advice on medium term economic strategy, economic development policy, Māori economic development, the natural resource sector, education, welfare, labour markets and regulatory quality.

Jane’s most recent role was Director of Growth and Public Services at Treasury. She has also worked for the Office of the Retirement Commissioner, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the Ministry of Commerce and the University of Waikato. Jane holds a Bachelor of Management Studies (Hons) in Economics at the University of Waikato.

Penny Nelson – Deputy Secretary Sector Strategy 

Penny Nelson is responsible for the Ministry’s strategy and evaluation functions, environmental monitoring and reporting, as well as the Ministry’s interests in the science system and climate change. She holds policy responsibility for hazardous substances and new organisms, marine management, and New Zealand’s commitments to international environmental agreements, as well as oversight of the Environmental Protection Authority.

She brings a strong focus on building partnerships across sectors and a wealth of leadership experience in government, business and the scientific community including the Sustainable Business Council, Ministry for Social Development, Dairy NZ and Landcare Research.

Penny is returning to the Ministry, having worked here between 1998 and 2004. Penny holds a Masters of Science (Hons), in Resource Management from Lincoln University, and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons), in Political Science from Otago University.