Executive Leadership Team

The Executive Leadership Team of Te Puni Kōkiri is Secretary for Māori Development Dave Samuels and Deputy Secretaries.

Te Tumu Whakarae mō Te Puni Kōkiri | Secretary for Māori Development – Dave Samuels
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Waikato-Tainui, Te Whakatōhea

Dave (David) Tokohau Samuels is a seasoned public service leader with strong ties to iwi, hapū and whānau Māori. He is the Secretary for Māori Development.

After working in the international arena for the past five years growing trade and market access in New Zealand’s primary industries in the Middle East and Asia, Dave has returned home to lead Te Puni Kōkiri.

He has a strong background in policy and economic development including leading the Policy unit at Te Puni Kōkiri from 2005-2012. During his time as the Policy Director, he led successful initiatives to bolster Māori economic and business development and the development of the Māori Economic Strategy and Action Plan “He kai kei aku ringa” which was released in 2012.

His career began as an infantry officer in the New Zealand Army.  Years later, Dave attained a Master of Philosophy (Humanities and Social Sciences) in Defence and Strategic Studies from Massey University and a Master of Public Administration degree (with Merit) from Victoria University of Wellington.

Hautū | Deputy Secretary – Critical Projects & Governance – Steven Sutton
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Steven Sutton is Deputy Secretary, Critical Projects & Governance. He joined Te Puni Kōkiri in 2020, working initially as Hautū Turuki | Chief of Staff. Steven brings experience working across Government, both in in Aotearoa and overseas, to the role.

Before joining Te Puni Kōkiri, Steven was posted to China for five years by Manatū Ahu Matua | Ministry for Primary Industries, most recently serving at New Zealand’s Embassy in Beijing as the counsellor responsible for food and primary product market access. He is proficient in Chinese (Mandarin). Steven practiced as an in house lawyer at MPI and at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (Legal and Constitutional Advisor), and in private practise at a large commercial law firm.

Steven was born and raised in Murihiku | Southland. He holds undergraduate degrees in both history and law from Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo | University of Otago, as well as a Masters degree in history from the University of Cambridge.

Hautū | Deputy Secretary – Policy Partnerships – Geoff Short
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Geoff Short has extensive experience working across Government and with Māori communities. He brings these skills and more to the role of Deputy Secretary, Policy Partnerships.

Geoff’s previous position as an Executive Director at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) included a two-month intensive stint in the National Crisis Management Centre in response to COVID-19 in May 2020. Prior to this he was reporting directly to the Prime Minister on the work of the Child Wellbeing Unit and the Child Poverty Unit.

Joining DPMC from his role as Assistant Commissioner at the State Services Commission, Geoff worked with the Chief Executives of ten social sector agencies to lift system performance. He is a former Deputy Secretary for Education at the Ministry of Education, assigned to the Minister of Education’s Office as Chief Advisor.

The connection Geoff has with Te Puni Kōkiri spans more than a decade, when he worked from 1999 to 2012 in different roles including as Advisor to the Minister of Māori Affairs and Deputy Secretary for Whānau and Social Policy.

Living in various places across New Zealand growing up, Geoff went on to study at the University of Waikato and later at Victoria University of Wellington.

Hautū | Deputy Secretary – Regional Partnerships and Operations – Paula Rawiri
Photo of Paula Rawiri

Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Ruanui

Paula Rawiri brings a wealth and breadth of experience to the role of Deputy Secretary Regional Partnerships and Operations.

For 18 years Paula contributed to Māori development at the Ministry of Education, where she has worked in leadership roles since 2002. Most recently she was the Ministry’s Director of Education, Waikato.

With a strong background in operational and policy management, Paula is highly skilled in developing and implementing Māori education initiatives, and she continues to broker opportunities with whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori at Te Puni Kōkiri. In her role she oversees investment in innovation that will build capability among Māori communities so they can achieve their aspirations and move towards intergenerational transformation.

Paula holds a Bachelor of Education and Post Graduate Diploma in Māori and Pacific Development from the University of Waikato. Growing up in Taupō, where she returns as often as possible, she maintains her strong regional focus by being based in the Te Puni Kōkiri Hamilton office.

Hautū | Deputy Secretary – Strategy, Finance, and Performance – Grace Smit

Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rakaipaaka

Grace Smit is Deputy Secretary - Strategy, Finance, and Performance.

With public service experience across a broad range of policy, operational and service design responsibilities, Grace brings a wealth of experience and expertise to lead our strategy, finance and performance functions.

Before joining Te Puni Kōkiri, Grace held the dual role at the Ministry of Justice, of Pae Matua/Director of the Waitangi Tribunal and Māori Land Court. Grace provided oversight and direction over the Waitangi Unit’s administrative and support services to the Waitangi Tribunal. She also guided the Māori Land Court’s national network of offices, to provide a range of services for Māori landowners and their whānau and hapū.

As part of this mahi, Grace worked closely with Te Puni Kōkiri on joint initiatives, including improving services and support for Māori Landowners through the Whenua Māori Programme, and working on amendments to Te Ture Whenua Māori legislation.

Grace has also held management roles in the Department of Corrections and the tertiary education sector. Her role at Te Puni Kōkiri allows Grace to draw from her kete of knowledge, to help deliver a high performing support system that enables the organisation to achieve its vision of Thriving Whānau.

Grace grew up in Auckland, where she gained a Masters of New Zealand History from the University of Auckland.

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