Published: 30 July 2019

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has today announced the appointment of Mr David Tokohau Samuels to the position of Chief Executive (Toihautū), Ministry of Māori Development (Te Puni Kōkiri).

Te Puni Kōkiri is the Government’s chief advisor on Māori development. The Ministry’s core role is to promote increases in the levels of Māori wellbeing and monitor public sector agencies’ effectiveness for Māori.

“Te Toihautū, Te Puni Kōkiri is a very important role for Māori, the Public Service and New Zealand,” said Mr Hughes.

“I am very pleased to announce Mr Samuels’ appointment. He is an accomplished senior leader with a solid understanding of the Public Sector and te ao Māori. I have no doubt that under his leadership Te Puni Kōkiri will help to uplift wellbeing outcomes for whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori.”

Mr Samuels has worked in the international arena for the past five years growing trade and market access for New Zealand’s primary industries in the Middle East and Asia.

He is currently the Deputy Director-General, China Relations (based in the New Zealand Embassy, Beijing) leading the Ministry for Primary Industries’ team based in China. He has made a significant impact strengthening New Zealand’s relationships with China and progressing a range of trade and market access initiatives.

Prior to this, Mr Samuels was the Consul and Regional Agriculture Counsellor for the Ministry for Primary Industries at the New Zealand Embassy in the United Arab Emirates, where he was responsible for maintaining and expanding primary industry trade with the Middle East and North Africa.

He has held policy and operational leadership roles in his career, including Director, Policy at Te Puni Kōkiri from 2005 – 2012. In these roles 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”, released in 2012.

Mr Samuels began his career as an infantry officer in the New Zealand Army, where he was awarded a commendation by the United Nations Commander Suai, East Timor for effective relationship management. He has led Army teams of up to 150 while serving in the New Zealand Defence Force, including internationally.

The Commissioner said Mr Samuels is a proven leader with many years of public service experience who is committed to working in partnership to deliver improved system outcomes.

“Mr Samuels is a seasoned public service leader with a strong background in policy and economic-development expertise and he has strong ties with whanau, hapū, and Māori,” said Mr Hughes.

“He knows how to navigate complexity on an international and national scale and takes a system-wide approach to deliver results within a public service context.

“He will undoubtedly influence the environment in which Te Puni Kōkiri operates, providing leadership to other government departments, Māori authorities, Māori organisations and iwi to help shape a public service that is more effective for Māori.”

Mr Samuels is of Waikato-Tainui and Te Whakatōhea descent.

He has been appointed for five years from 16 September. Until then, Lisa Davies, who is currently Deputy Chief Executive, Investment at Te Puni Kōkiri, will be the Acting Chief Executive.


Media queries: Grahame Armstrong 021 940 457 or



Since 2017, Mr Samuels has been Deputy Director General (China Relations) Ministry for Primary Industries (New Zealand Embassy), Beijing.

From 2015-2017, he was Ministry for Primary Industries (New Zealand Embassy), United Arab Emirates Consul and Regional Agriculture Counsellor.

Prior to this, 2012-2015, Mr Samuels was Director, Partnerships and Portfolio Advice at MPI.

From 2007-2012 he held senior leadership roles at Te Puni Kōkiri, including Director, Policy and Acting Deputy Secretary, Support Services.

In 2004-05 he was Manager Māori and Pacific Policy at the Department of Corrections.

From 1985-2003 he was an officer in the New Zealand Army.

He holds a Master of Public Administration degree (with Merit) from Victoria University, Wellington and a Master of Philosophy degree (Humanities and Social Sciences) in Defence and Strategic Studies from Massey University. 


Media queries: Grahame Armstrong 021 940 457 or

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