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Our People

Mana Whakahaere Director

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Te Pora Thompson

Ngaati Hauaa

Te Pora brings to Te Niwha a wealth of experience in local, regional and national research and expertise in Māori leadership, advisory and governance positions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Te Pora held three concurrent positions across the response: Pouaarahi - Advisor to the Regional Group Controller of Civil Defence; Chair of the Iwi Maaori Council and member of the Commissioner Group for Waikato District Health Board and Maangai Maaori within Local Government - Hamilton City Council. Te Pora also supported her iwi Ngati Haua, Waikato-Tainui.

Research in both Science and Matauranga holds a special place for Te Pora having co-led and led research in the across Public Health and Maaori health for over 13 years.

Te Niwha

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Nga Taumata Kokiri - Guiders of Te Niwha

Te Niwha Maanaki Our Te Niwha Team

The term Pou describes a pillar, post, support.  Our Management Team are Pillars for the mahi of Te Niwha.   Each Pou drive their own specific areas and across the Platform ensure collaboration and connection occurs where their mahi intersects.

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Distinguished Professor Nigel French Pou Pūtaiao | Chief Science Advisor

The Chief Science Advisor is the primary science advisor for Te Niwha. In partnership with the Director, the Chief Science advisor form the Te Niwha Directorate and as such is responsible and accountable for meeting the scientific needs of the Platform through:
- Providing quality science advice to the Mana Whakahaere - Director on matters requiring scientific depth and expertise
- Meeting the science leadership needs across Te Niwha to ensure research impact is delivered asintended.
- Working to embed Te Kawenata o Te Niwha at the centre of our Platform culture.

Distinguished Professor French provides Te Niwha with more than 25 years of epidemiology, prevention and control of infectious diseases experience and is well regarded within the science sector and the community. Professor French is a current Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in recognition of his leadership of research programmes that contributed to reducing the burden of infectious disease in New Zealand. He is Emeritus Director of the New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre and has contributed to the COVID-19 response as an epidemiologist and member of the Ministry of Health’s Technical Advisory Group.

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Tegan Porima-Friend Pouārahi | Cultural and Partnerships Manager

Ngāti Hikairo ki Kāwhia | Ngāti Maniapoto | Waikato | Kāi Tahu

The Pouaarahi leads internal cultural confidence within Te Ao Māori, Tangata Pasifika and priority populations. In partnership with the Pou Rangahau - Research Engagement Manager, the Pouaarahi facilitates the collaborations of our national pūkenga rangahau (research experts) and, over the life course of Te Niwha, support research development and outcomes across government agencies with iwi Māori and tangata Pasifika. The Pouaarahi balances between the two and brings into focus an appropriate development of Knowledge sharing networks that ensures the exchange of mātauranga (knowledge) is aligned to the outcomes of the platform, is grounded in a Te Tiriti o Waitangi principled approach and endures through implementation and thereafter.

Tegan brings significant experience of engagement to Te Niwha across communities. Tegan was the inaugural Maaori Whakaahu Raatonga Maaori at Hamilton City Council a conduit role that focussed on providing authentic and engaging services to support the sharing of Maatauranga Maaori (Maaori Knowledges) in the community and through a collaborative process ensure library services could facilitate in partnership the design and delivery of services to support the needs of Maaori. More recently, Tegan held the responsibility for 15 COVID-19 community, pacific and maaori response hubs across the Waikato region. Tegan's commitment to her marae, hapuu and iwi is evident in the local roles that she has held that supplement and lift her regional and now national responsibilities.

Dr Lucia Schweitzer Pou Rangahau | Research Engagement Manager

The Pou Rangahau - Research Engagement Manager leads and facilitates the collaboration of national experts in research and support the planning and development of research programmes with providers located in Tertiary, Private, Crown Research Institutions and Independent Research Organisations. In partnership with the Pouaarahi, the Research Engagement Manager supports collective engagement to ensure Te Niwha research programmes and providers are well equipped and supported to give effect to partnership through nurtured relationships with Māori that respond to their needs and aspirations as Treaty partners.

Lucia joins Te Niwha from the Department of Biochemistry, Otago. She received her master's degree in molecular biology in 2006 at the University of Vienna, Austria. Lucia then did her PhD on RNA localisation in neurons, investigating the role of two proteins involved in this process: Staufen2 and Pumilio2. After receiving her PhD at the University of Vienna in 2010, she moved to the University of Otago and has worked on secreted amyloid precursor protein alpha and its role in Alzheimer's disease projects and investigating adult neurogenesis.

Sonia Varma Pou Hōtaka | Programme Manager

The Pou Hōtaka - Programme Manager manages the day-to-day Platform activities and actions decisions by the Director in a manner consistent with the Platform mission and Te Kawenata o Te Niwha - the Te Niwha Charter.

She is an experienced Programme Manager with a background in health. Sonia has worked in both Australia and New Zealand in regulatory, primary, secondary, and tertiary care environments across the continuum of care, spanning multiple clinical specialties and organizations within the public and private sector. She has an excellent understanding of intricacies and complexities of the machinery of Government and system-level change. Sonia specialises in being a generalist, and her passion is to develop and deliver the right services/products at the right time, to the right people - enabling better outcomes for the business, consumer, hapū, iwi and whānau.

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Wendy Organ Pou Tuara | EA to the Director and Business Support

Wendy provides support to the Director and the operations team. Wendy has a strong background in relationship management and collaboration, previously holding roles in operations and communications in the private sector. She has a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Pacific and Indigenous Studies. As a Te Tiriti o Waitangi partner and a proud Samoan woman, Wendy desires to serve Māori and Pacific Peoples to enable them to flourish and grow sustainable healthy communities.

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Kim Thomas Poutohatoha - Communications Leader

The Poutohatoha is the Communications Leader that ensures Te Niwha achieves its Vision and Mission through successfully implementing the promotion, socialisation and sharing of Te Niwha, its research and people leadership projects across our stakeholders that align with Te Kawenata o Te Niwha. They provide advice to the Mana Whakahaere on Te Niwha strategic and operational communications engagement, relevant media training and support to Te Niwha Manaaki Team and are responsible for the Te Niwha Communications Strategy.

Kim has worked as a journalist and communications professional for more than 20 years, with a particular focus on health and working with researchers and collaborations. She worked at the University of Otago's Christchurch health campus for a decade (including during the COVID-19 pandemic), finding stories of significant discovery or insight and partnering with researchers to share details of their work and its impact. Kim has worked with Crown Research Institutes, with research collaborations such as Research for Children Aotearoa and Better Border Biosecurity (B3), and with primary care organisations such as Pegasus Health.

Te Hiwa o Te Niwha

Hiwa o Te Niwha Te Niwha Steering Group

Hiwa o Te Niwha - the Te Niwha Steering Group provides assurance to MBIE that Te Niwha’s activities are aligned with its Mission and the purposes of the investment.

The Steering group is Co-Chaired, and membership is drawn from a representative of each MBIE and the Ministry of Health, Iwi Maori and Pacific People representation.  Co-Chairs and non-agency membership were selected by the Directorate, following a national call for nominations, giving consideration to the skills matrix and approval by the Co-Hosts and MBIE. An international member will be added in early 2024.

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    Dr Fiona Cram


    Ko Mohaka te awa. Ko Tawhirirangi te maunga. Ko Ngāti Pahauwera te iwi

    Fiona Cram is a Māori (indigenous) woman from Aotearoa New Zealand. Her tribal affiliations are to Ngāti Pahauwera on the east coast of Aotearoa. Fiona is the mother of one son.
    Fiona has a PhD in social and developmental psychology from the University of Otago. She has lectured in Social Psychology and has also been a Senior Research Fellow within IRI (the International Research Institute of Māori and Indigenous Education), at the University of Auckland. In the middle of 2003 Fiona established Katoa Ltd.

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    Professor John Fraser


    John Fraser has been Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Auckland since 2012. He is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington (BSc Hons ‘80) and University of Auckland (PhD ’83), and conducted fundamental immunology research at Harvard before returning to New Zealand. He was the inaugural Wellcome Trust (UK) Senior Fellow in Medical Science (1992) John holds a Personal Chair in Molecular Medicine and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. John has a long-standing interest in immunity, infectious disease and particularly the mechanisms of virulence and pathogenicity of microbes. His current research focuses on the development of a staphylococcal vaccine.

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    Mike Smith


    Mike is from Te Tai Tokerau and is Co-Chair of Pou Take Āhuarangi, the climate pou for the National Iwi Chairs Forum, as well as Director of Ihirangi. Ihirangi provides strategic leadership to support climate priorities for te aō Māori as well as operational support for the Pou Take Āhuarangi relationship with the Crown (including the Ministry for the Environment). Mike has more than thirty years involvement in climate education, strategy, organisation, and action both in Aotearoa and internationally.

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    Professor Ian Town

    Ministry of Health Representative

    Ian Town is the Chief Science Advisor at the Ministry of Health.

    Ian Town has worked across both the health and education sectors during his 30-year career. A physician by training, he has published extensively in respiratory medicine. Much of this research has been implemented through evidence-based guidelines for the management of common conditions such as asthma, COPD and pneumonia. Following an 8-year period at the University of Canterbury as Deputy Vice-Chancellor he had a wide range of roles including Chair of the PBRF Sector Reference Group and Chair of the TEC PBRF Governance Group overseeing the 2018 Quality Evaluation. He has recently completed a 5-year term as the Chair of the Health Precinct Advisory Council leading one of the key Christchurch recovery projects. In his role as Chief Science Advisor he is leading the Ministry’s work to implement the New Zealand Health Research Strategy 2017–2027 in partnership with MBIE and the HRC

Te Kete Mātauranga Whakamana Māori

Whakamana Māori provides advice to the Director relative to Māori research and engagement for infectious diseases and pandemic preparedness.  

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    Ms Glenda Raumati

    Whakamana Māori

    Waikato, Ngati Mutunga
    Glenda Raumati is General Manager of Ngā Miro Health in Ngāruāwahia. A member of Waikato Tainui Whanau Ora collective, the Whānau Ora provider is based at Tūrangawaewae marae where Glenda is also a Trustee.

    Glenda has worked in the service of her community and its health for over 25 years and is a strong proponent of the vision set by Te Puea Herangi to care for our people across all aspects of their life.

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    Associate Professor Clive Aspin

    Whakamana Māori

    Associate Professor Clive Aspin is a public health researcher who grew up in Hauraki where he has strong whakapapa connections to Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Whanaunga and Ngāti Tamaterā.

    He joined Te Herenga Waka in 2020 after a diverse career in secondary and tertiary education, government policy development, community-based health management, and academic research and teaching in New Zealand and Australia. He is the inaugural Associate Dean, Māori in the Faculty of Health.

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    Associate Professor Tristram Ingham

    Whakamana Māori

    Tristram is the deputy head of department, Research Associate Professor and clinical epidemiologist in the Department of Medicine at the University of Otago - Wellington. Dr Ingham has clinical, academic and governance expertise in addressing health inequities, Māori health, long-term conditions, disability rights and health care governance.

    He is the director of Manatohu Limited, chair of the Foundation for Equity and Research New Zealand (FERNZ) and co-chair of the My Life My Voice Charitable Trust. He also chairs Te Ao Mārama Aotearoa Trust, a nationwide organisation representing tāngata whaikaha Māori.

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    Dr Maria Baker

    Whakamana Māori

    Dr Maria Baker, PhD, has gained over 20 years of expertise in healthcare, mental health, and social care workforce development for Māori. She earned her PhD in Māori Health, focusing on Māori nursing workforce development and suicide prevention. She is also a registered nurse, holds many mental health and nursing qualifications and has been in advisory roles to help healthcare better address the health needs of Iwi and whānau.

    From 2007 to 2023, Maria played a critical role in the development, growth, and success of Te Rau Ora. Within her work, she focused on strengthening health and wellbeing by collaborating and facilitating the Māori collective. Her passion and commitment to kaupapa inspired many to pursue the best possible outcomes for whānau. In 2023, Maria was appointed as the new CEO of Te Hiku Hauora, the largest health provider of primary healthcare services in the Far North. She will provide value with her expertise in understanding the importance of community and care for all patients.

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    Dr Natalie Netzler

    Whakamana Māori

    Natalie is the current Director of the Auckland University PC3 Lab. She is a Virologist with Samoan, Māori and European heritage. Born and raised in Te Tai Tokerau (Whangārei) with whakapapa back to Ngāti Ruanui in Taranaki, Ngāti Hauā in Maungatautari, and Moto'otua in Samoa.

    Dr Netzler has a strong interest in the development of antivirals, vaccines and the impact of genetics on viral infection susceptibility and clinical outcomes.

Te Kete Mātauranga Technical Advisory Group

The Advisory Group provides Te Niwha with guidance on its mission and research themes from an international perspective, connectivity with key international stakeholders and ensures Te Niwha delivers world class research with international relevance. 

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    Dame Teuila Percival

    Knowledge Advisory

    Dame Teuila is a Samoan Consultant Paediatrician working at KidzFirst Childrens Hospital in South Auckland. She is also a Senior Lecturer at the School of Population Health, University of Auckland. Dame Teuila has particular interests in Pacific people’s health, Community child health and child protection. She has worked in the Pacific region in both a Clinical and research role with research focus on Maternal and Child Health, Climate Change and Health, Child Obesity, Health Systems and informatics.
    Dame Teuila is a founding member of the Pacific Medical Association, South Seas, Mana Kids and Moana Connect.

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    Dr Joanna Hicks

    Knowledge Advisory

    Dr Hicks has worked at the interface of biochemistry and infectious disease (tuberculosis, malaria and gonorrhoea) throughout her career. She undertook her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge and in 2015 established her research group focusing on the pathogenesis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Her multi-discplinary team addresses the global issue of anti-microbial resistant Neisseria gonorrhoea from multiple angles; investigating fundamental aspects of how this bacterium causes infection and identifying new targets for new antimicrobial drugs. We are now expanding our research into new antimicrobial targets to another notoriously drug resistant bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus.

    Dr Hicks has a strong interest in RNA and enzymes that process and regulate RNA. For example how the regulation of RNA affects the metabolism and growth of organisms and in a more applied direction how we can use RNA processing enzymes for biotechnology applications.

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    Associate Professor Mark Thomas

    Knowledge Advisory

    Mark is a physician who has specialised in the diagnosis and management of infectious diseases in adult patients. From 1988 until 2021 Mark worked part-time in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology, in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences of the University of Auckland, and part-time in the Infectious Diseases Department at Auckland City Hospital. Since early 2022 Mark ceased work at Auckland City Hospital, but continues to work in the University of Auckland.

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    Professor Steve Chambers

    Knowledge Advisory

    Professor Steve Chambers' research interests relate to diagnostics in respiratory infections, the treatment of infectious diseases and intermediary metabolism with particular emphasis on the relationship between bacterial and human metabolism. He is interested in the effective delivery of treatment for infectious disease that minimises harm to the patient depends on rapid, accurate diagnosis of the infecting organism.

    Clinical studies undertaken by Professor Chambers and his team have confirmed the limitations of current methods such as culture and PCR, particularly in children, which depend on the collection of sputum and other specimens. This lead the concept of diagnostic breath testing, which can be performed on readily available samples that can be easily repeated, to follow microbial metabolism. Markers of bacterial metabolisms are obvious diagnostic candidates particularly as they are specific to a particular respiratory pathogen.

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    Dr Helen Petousis-Harris

    Knowledge Advisory

    Helen is also a Vaccinologist, Director of the Vaccine Datalink and Research Group (VADAR), Associate Professor, and undergraduate and post-graduate Lecturer in the School of Population Health at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland. She is a media spokesperson on vaccines and vaccination, and a science communicator.

    Helen has been involved in immunisation-related research in New Zealand since 1998, including clinical, social science, epidemiological and health systems. Her main research areas are vaccine safety and vaccine effectiveness. She has been the Chair of the World Health Organization Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) and an elected member of the International Brighton Collaboration Science Board.

Te Taumata Niwha High Level Independent Assurance Group

The Te Taumata Niwha High-Level Independent Assurance Group provides independent guidance to the Director of Te Niwha that takes a broad scope consideration to Infectious Disease and the impacts locally, nationally and regionally. 

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    Tā Jerry Mateparae


    Tā Jerry Mateparae is the current Healthier Lives Governance Group and Kāhui Māori Chair and a member of Te Taumata Niwha for Te Niwha. Tā Jerry has spent almost 50 years in public service. He has a Master of Arts with First Class Honours from the University of Waikato, and was recognised as one of their distinguished alumni in 2009. In May 2011, Sir Jerry received an honorary doctorate from Massey University.
    He was awarded Singapore’s highest military award, the Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang (Tentera) [Distinguished Service Order (Military)], from the President of Singapore, S R Nathan, in May 2011.

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    Dame Karen Poutasi


    Dame Dr Karen Poutasi is medically qualified with a specialisation in public health and has significant governance and leadership experience in the health and education sectors. Her executive positions have included Chief Executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and Director General of Health. She lives in Paraparaumu.

    Dame Karen is also Chair of Taumata Arowai – the Water Services Regulator and Kāpuhipuhi Wellington Uni-Professional and has been a board member of Te Whatu Ora since its establishment. She was previously the Commissioner of Waikato District Health Board and Chair of the COVID-19 Immunisation Programme Governance Group.

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    Lisa Tumahai


    Lisa is the retiring Kaiwhakahaere (Chairperson) of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. She has served in tribal governance for over 20 years and has held the role of Kaiwhakahaere for the last seven. She is an active leader for her hapū, Ngāti Waewae, and a commercial director for her Papatipu Rūnanga (Marae entity) on Te Tai Poutini West Coast. Throughout the duration of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Lisa served as co-chair of the Pandemic Response Group for National Iwi Chairs Forum alongside Mike Smith, providing leadership and guidance to iwi Māori and Māori groups seeking advocacy and support to elevate critical needs for Māori and reprioritising policy programmes of the Crown.