14 December 2022

Deputy Public Service Commissioner Ms Helene Quilter QSO has today announced the appointment of James Palmer to the position of Secretary for the Environment and Chief Executive, Ministry for the Environment.

The Ministry for the Environment is the Government’s primary advisor on environmental issues, including managing the climate change response.

The Secretary for the Environment is responsible for providing strategic leadership of the Ministry for the Environment’s functions including policy advice and implementation, stewardship and monitoring. As steward for the environment, the Ministry takes a long-term perspective on environmental issues.

“I’m very pleased to appoint Mr Palmer to this role,” Ms Quilter said.

“He is an experienced, proven leader and his background has prepared him well to lead the Ministry for the Environment.”

Mr Palmer is currently the Chief Executive of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, a role he has held since June 2017. Mr Palmer has spent much of his career in agencies with an environmental or natural resource focus. These roles include a brief period as Acting Chief Executive at the Environmental Protection Agency, Deputy Secretary (Sector Strategy) at Ministry for the Environment, Director Strategy Systems and Science Policy at the Ministry for Primary Industries and Director Strategy (Strategy Development) at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Ms Quilter said Mr Palmer has a rare mix of both central government experience in policy development and providing advice to Ministers, and the implementation of environmental policy through local government.

Mr Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Otago.

He has been appointed for five years from 1 March 2023.


Mr Palmer is currently Chief Executive Officer at Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. Prior to this (2016-2017) he was Group Manager Strategic Development at the council.

In 2015 he was Acting Chief Executive of the Environmental Protection Authority.

For three years (2012-2015) Mr Palmer was Deputy Secretary (Sector Strategy) at the Ministry for the Environment.

From 2008 to 2012 Mr Palmer held a number of director roles, including Director Strategy, Systems and Science Policy, at the Ministry of Primary Industries, or the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which it was called up to 2012.

He spent three years (2005-2008) in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, including the role of chief of staff.

Mr Palmer was project manager at Esk Hydro Power Ltd (2003-2005) and a research fellow at the Ecologic Foundation (2004-2005).

In 2003 he worked in the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit as a policy intern.

From 2001 to 2003 Mr Palmer was a senior private secretary in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic, Industry and Regional Development, Customs, Associate Minister of Health.

He was a senior private secretary in the Office of the Minister of Customs and Consumer Affairs, Associate Minister of Economic Development, Environment and Conservation from 1999 to 2001.


Media queries:  Grahame Armstrong 021 940 457 or grahame.armstrong@publicservice.govt.nz