State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has today announced the appointment of Stephen McKernan, QSO, as the acting Director-General of Health and Chief Executive of the Ministry of Health.

Mr McKernan is a former Director-General of Health and former public service chief executive. He is currently a Senior Partner at EY in New Zealand and is taking a leave of absence from his position to carry out the role.

 “I’m very pleased to appoint Mr McKernan to this senior role given his depth of experience and background as a highly respected public servant with considerable expertise in the health system,” Mr Hughes said.

“We are moving at pace to complete the statutory process for the recruitment and appointment of the next Director-General of Health.

“Mr McKernan will have full delegations and responsibility as Acting Director-General. I have asked him to provide strong leadership to move the sector and Ministry forward.

“I expect him to hit the ground running.

“Mr McKernan has a successful career in New Zealand and continues to make a significant contribution internationally. I am pleased he has made himself available for this role. He is well placed to work with the Minister of Health and to get on with strengthening the Ministry’s work with the sector.”

The Director-General’s position will be advertised tomorrow (Friday) and an extensive recruitment process will be undertaken. The role will be advertised until the end of January.

Mr McKernan will start in the Acting Director-General position from 5 February.

The Ministry of Health is the Government’s chief advisor on public healthcare matters and seeks to improve, promote and protect the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.


Media contact: Grahame Armstrong 021 940 457


During his time as Director-General of Health in New Zealand from 2006-2010, Mr McKernan established and led a number of programmes that resulted in significant improvements within the health system. These included improvements in child immunisation numbers, elective surgical procedure rates and reductions in smoking rates.

Mr McKernan led the national response to the 2009 influenza epidemic.

He represented New Zealand on the Executive Board and Programme Budget Committee of the World Health Organisation and at the annual Commonwealth Fund Symposium on Health System Performance.
Before becoming Director-General of Health in 2006, he was the Chief Executive of the Hutt Valley and Counties Manukau District Health Boards. He earned a reputation for driving successful change and implementing innovative programmes within primary health care, and in encouraging lifestyle change.

Last modified: