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Leadership team

This page provides information about our Te Purengi 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.


James Walker – Deputy Secretary, Partnerships and Customers

To achieve the best environmental outcomes for New Zealand, the Ministry needs to partner with change-makers and mobilise as many New Zealanders as possible to take action. James heads the Ministry’s Partnerships and Customers Division which leads this work. The division brings together the work of communications and engagement, Māori/Iwi partnerships, and environmental investment funds.  

Before joining the Ministry, James was general manager of corporate affairs for Countdown, part of the Woolworths Group. He has also worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and served as Deputy Ambassador for New Zealand in the Netherlands.

Cheryl Barnes – Deputy Secretary, Water and Climate Change

Cheryl Barnes is Deputy Secretary for Water and Climate Change.  Her role is  to ensure the ministry provides leadership and stewardship that will make a difference for future generations of New Zealanders. 
Cheryl responsibilities include strategic leadership and policy advice across freshwater quality and management, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.  She also leads work on monitoring the state of New Zealand’s water resources and reporting to the world on New Zealand’s emissions.   
These issues are central to New Zealand’s transition to sustainable land use and a sustainable low emissions economy.  The work she leads sits within  the wider context of supporting the ministry to pursue its vision of making New Zealand the most liveable place in the world.
Cheryl joined the Ministry for the Environment as  Deputy Secretary, Organisational Performance/Chief Operating Officer, and managed teams dealing with a variety of issues such as human resourcing, people and culture, as well as water management, funding for freshwater clean-ups, remediation of contaminated sites and environmental education.  

Prior to that she was the Director of Budget and Public Services at the Treasury, where she held a range of leadership roles, including on budget and fiscal policy and state sector reform.

Cheryl holds a Masters of Public Policy from Victoria University and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Leeds University in the UK. She is mother to two young daughters.


Amanda Moran – Deputy Secretary, Natural and Built System

Amanda has worked at the Ministry since 2006, before that holding planning roles in London and Dunedin. She brings expertise and commitment to the issues the Ministry is addressing and the outcomes we are seeking for New Zealand.

Amanda has held acting roles at this level for 18 months now, on diverse issues including urban, marine, air, hazardous substances and the resource management system and has built trusted working relationships across Government and beyond.

Amanda has also played a significant role in the leadership of the Ministry’s transformation programme.


Natasha Lewis – Deputy Secretary, Strategy and StewardshipNatasa Lewis

Natasha has worked at the Ministry 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.



Claire Richardson – Chief Operating Officerclaire-richardson

Claire is responsible for the Ministry's corporate and organisational performance, Ministerial services, and organisational development.

Claire has diverse international experience spanning multiple sectors including international film and television, international aid, and joins the Ministry from the Auckland Council where she held a number of senior roles.