Shenagh Gleisner - A Women of Many Colours

Three things you probably don’t know about IPANZ Executive Director Shenagh Gleisner:

  • She has tertiary qualifications in anthropology, social work, science, social policy, public policy, health economics and Maori studies. (She is also a qualified piano teacher!)
  • She moved from her native UK to New Zealand to settle in Thames 33 years ago, drawn by the richness of New Zealand's culture
  • She has four children, three stepchildren and five grandchildren. Every ten years they have a 10 day family gathering in Europe and there are now 32 of them!

Shenagh joined IPANZ as Executive Director just a year ago, with a drive to inspire public sector professionals and connect them with thought provoking ideas, and a deep passion for improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

“I really love this country and everybody deserves to thrive. So I want people to feel included and involved and contributing because that is crucial for individual and community wellbeing.

After Shenagh and her husband packed up their (then) three children and a box of play things to travel the world in the late 80s, she says New Zealand took their hearts — for its beauty, the sense of community and the Maori culture.

She started her career in New Zealand in public health before consulting with KPMG (becoming a Director) then moving into a number of central government leadership roles and executive leasing working in multiple sectors, including the not for profit sector — before coming to IPANZ.

Shenagh says it’s hard to pick a favourite role or two from her career — which has given her opportunities to travel rural New Zealand designing and delivering mental health services, to influence important projects in a broad range of organisations as a KPMG consultant, and to go into executive roles in organisations and immerse herself for months on end as an independent consultant.

“It’s like when I guide visitors in Zealandia and see all the birds, I’ll see one and I think that is my favourite, and then another and I think no that is my favourite!  In each stage of my career, in each job, I thought it was wonderful and I was so lucky.”

Her experience in the private sector taught her valuable lessons about things like agility, customer service, dispersed team work and strategy, which she has been able to bring back into the public sector. And, she says, her broad experience adds up to insights into different people, groups, sectors, and the whole system, and seeing the value that each one brings.

“Because I have been in all those different places, I really value the contribution of each sector and each agency — it makes me see how everyone contributes.”

She is excited to apply all of those skills at IPANZ to help inform and inspire public sector professionals, and ultimately contribute to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

“How fortunate I am to immerse myself every day in the fascinating subject of public administration.”

Alongside IPANZ, Shenagh continues to serve on a number of Boards and advisory roles in government and not-for-profits. And in her ‘spare time’ she can be found volunteering at Zealandia, playing tennis or the piano, or delighting in spending time with her grandchildren.

Meet the Team - Christine Langdon

Christine Langdon joined the IPANZ team last November as our communications and marketing whizz — helping to transform our e-updates, social media and other communications, including introducing more video content.

Christine is passionate about doing work that’s good for people and the planet, so alongside her work with IPANZ she also works with several other businesses and organisations that are doing good, and runs a social enterprise called The Good Registry — a gift website where people ‘gift the power to do Good’.

Since Christine joined the IPANZ team, we’ve started sharing informative content on our social media channels at least three to four times each week, and we’ve created a presence on YouTube — where we’ve now shared about 20 videos including presentations, interviews and expert advice on lots of different topics.

Christine also helps us to produce our e-update every three weeks, including plenty of public sector news and insights from New Zealand and overseas and information about IPANZ activities and events.

Christine started her career as a journalist, working on provincial and national newspapers in New Zealand and overseas, then switched to working in communications. 

Her first communications role was in the public sector as Chief Media Adviser at Child, Youth and Family, and she’s contracted to a wide range of different public sector agencies since. She has also worked in the NGO and corporate sectors.

Three years ago Christine co-founded The Good Registry, which enables people to ‘gift kindness instead of stuff’ through charitable gift cards and charitable registries. It has now raised $380,000, given thousands of people the joy of giving, and replaced 12,500 physical gifts (along with all of the associated packaging and waste) with donations to good causes instead.

She now divides her time between The Good Registry and communications consulting, and when she’s not working, she likes to practice yoga, cycle, run, and get out into nature as often as she can.

Joan Smith - Blazing a Trail for Women

Joan Smith has been a trail-blazer for women in the public service in a career that has spanned five decades.

Joan was one of the first women in the male-dominated public sector when she joined the Department of Agriculture as a farm advisory officer in 1969.

She says that being one of few women in the sector, there were always opportunities for training and advancement, and she actively sought out and made the most of those opportunities.

“I joined the public sector at the time of the women’s movement, with women coming into the workforce and seeking equality, so I determined quite early on that I wanted to help further women and that I would seek management positions.”

She says that the only way to get promoted as a woman at the time was to move — and move she did! From Agriculture, to Lands and Survey, to the Forest Service, to Ministry of Transport, Land Transport Safety Authority  then the Ministry of Education, holding senior economics and leadership roles and leading programmes of national significance — before moving to the not-for-profit sector as Chief Executive of Presbyterian Support Central, and later back to the public sector in contract roles (while also chairing a private farming company).

She says her career has been filled with amazing opportunities to make a difference for New Zealanders (such as ushering major policy and legislative changes to the land transport acts designed to save thousands of lives on our roads). It’s also given her invaluable opportunities to develop her own skills and to move into leadership roles — and she hopes for the same for women in the public sector today.

With more women in the workforce now, she’s not sure the same support and opportunities are there to specifically help women to get ahead — but it’s something she continues to actively champion in her role as a Board member with IPANZ.

Joan has served IPANZ on and off for close to 50 years — starting out as a local committee representative while working at Lands and Survey in the 70s. She has served twice as President of IPANZ, first in 1985 and then in 1999 and 2000. In 2006 Joan was made a Life Member of IPANZ. Today she is Treasurer of IPANZ.

She says she enjoys being on the IPANZ Board for the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, and to develop and inspire public sector professionals.

“It’s good being able to help develop public servants by giving them training opportunities and providing a neutral and safe place to debate issues of the day and emerging trends in public administration and public policy issues.”

“We are also able to make submissions to ensure that the values that the public sector was initially set up on are adhered to, like political neutrality and professionalism. It’s important to me that the public sector stays neutral, is professional and is able to provide free and frank advice to the government of the day.”

Making a difference is a big part of Joan’s life. Since retiring from full-time employment in 2012, she has had a big focus on using the skills that she’s acquired in her career to give back.

As well as serving on the IPANZ Board, she is Deputy Chair of the JR McKenzie Trust, a Trustee of the Dowse Foundation, a Trustee of the Rotary Club of Wellington Trust and an interview skills tutor for the Victoria University of Wellington’s Skilled Migrants Programme — while also quilting and knitting in her spare time!

Helena Kaho - A Public Sector Voice for Pasifika

Helena Kaho exemplifies the diversity of public sector professionals in New Zealand.

IPANZ’s newest board member, Helena took an indirect route into the public sector.

After leaving school she trained and worked as a hairdresser but had to give up salon-work when she became pregnant at 18. 

She retrained in beauty therapy and freelanced — doing hair and makeup for weddings and working from home — while also having another three children.

At 26, Helena decided to go back to school and enrolled to study law at the University of Auckland.

She graduated in 2013 with a Master of Laws with Honours and a Bachelor of Arts, then moved with her family to the Cook Islands to work in general legal practice.

Eighteen months after moving to the Cook Islands Helena returned to New Zealand to care for her terminally ill father and took up work as a lecturer at the University of Auckland, where she also became Associate Dean Pasifika.

While she loved the role at the university, Helena says she’s always on a quest to learn and try her hand at new things. So in 2018 she left the university to become a mediator with MBIE. And on 1 September she will be taking up a new role as a referee in the Disputes Tribunal (part of the Ministry of Justice).

“I really enjoy learning new things, so the opportunity to move around across different departments and learn new skills is part of the appeal of the public sector. It’s a chance to keep growing and learning.”

The daughter of a Tongan father and Kiwi mother, Helena was born in New Zealand and did some of her secondary schooling in Tonga.

She says her Pasifika heritage is important to her and much of her career motivation comes from being of service to, and supporting other Pasifika people and communities.

She says much of her focus at the University was on institutionalising resources and structures for Pasifika students in the Law School. And in her role at MBIE has been an opportunity to learn more about and have an influence in our system of mediation, a form of dispute resolution that she says bears some similarities to traditional dispute and reconciliation practices in Pacific Island cultures.

“I am very passionate about Pasifika representation in our systems and I feel that it is important that I use my privilege to contribute where I can. There are different ways to do that —for example,  sometimes it is about being visible as a Pasifika person in a space where there are few Pasifika. With mediation, my focus is contributing to the body of knowledge around what an appropriate mediation process and framework looks like for Pasifika people.” She’d also like to encourage more Pasifika people into mediation, both as participants in the process, and as trained mediators.

Helena’s Pasifika background has been something she has been able to draw on in the public sector, “rather than something to leave at the door”.

“I’ve been really fortunate to have had amazing mentors and people who have gone out of their way to be supportive of me — both Pasifika and non-Pasifika. My experience in the public sector as a Pasifika woman has been overwhelmingly positive. Probably the most empowering thing in respect of my cultural identity and learning how I can intentionally bring my whole self into my work has been the opportunity to participate in the Mana Moana Experience (a Leadership New Zealand programme) through an MBIE scholarship this year.”

Helena says there are still areas she’d like to see more Pasifika representation — and governance is one of those. So she’s looking forward to bringing a Pasifika voice to the IPANZ board, and building her own governance experience at the same time.

Alongside her work with MBIE, IPANZ and soon with the Disputes Tribunal, Helena continues to be kept busy with her “teenage and young adult brood” — her children now aged 25, 21, 19 and 18 — and the new baby of the household, her bichon frise maltese cross, Blanka.

And her latest hobby is making Pacific jewellery out of recycled materials like plastics — using traditional handmade methods and motifs. An exhibition of her work coming soon!

Kavya Shrivastava - Working for a Better New Zealand

With both parents in the public sector, it was almost inevitable that Kavya Shrivastava would find herself working in the public sector too!

Kavya started working part-time as a clerical support officer at the Ministry of Justice, the same year she started studying at Victoria University of Wellington. Within a couple of months, she was promoted to Grants Officer.

She says that experience gave her a good feel for public service — so when she graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in economics, marketing and international business, she decided to stay in the public sector.

She took her first full-time job in 2016 with Land Information New Zealand, where she is now a portfolio manager, dealing with the acquisition and disposal of Crown land and ensuring Crown land is being put to its best use.

Kavya, who was born in India, says the appeal of working in the public sector is knowing she’s working towards making New Zealand a better place.

"I am very proud of my work at LINZ and making a difference through my work by exercising delegated statutory authority,” she says. “It’s very satisfying to work for the public sector.”

She also loves learning about and experiencing first-hand the machinery of government, how Cabinet works, and the effects of changes in government.

She came to IPANZ to learn more about the sector, and she started attending New Professionals events for the networking and sense of community.

“My main goal was connecting with like-minded people that you might not have access to otherwise. It’s very welcoming, and anyone who is new to the public sector can join in and talk about their challenges.”

Kavya became a co-convener last year — drawn to the role because she wanted to help to foster the network, the sense of belonging, and to host really interesting and useful events.

“It’s about creating a sense of belonging. It can be a lonely place starting a new job in the public sector and it’s a steep learning curve when it’s your first time. IPANZ is a great way to get those skills that you need and meet people who can help you out. We also host a wide range of events based on what’s happening in the work at that time. These help you stay informed in a very accessible and understandable way — while getting to hang out with lots of people!”

Outside of work, Kavya likes to work out, eat out and runs a food blog on Instagram,, which you can check out for her latest tips on great places to eat!

Clare Toufexis - Designing Service Around New Zealanders' Needs

After five years working in the private sector, Clare Toufexis joined the public sector in 2003 and hasn’t looked back.

Clare says she’s a staunch public servant and doesn’t imagine ever doing work that’s not in service of New Zealanders.

“I think some people get public servants a bit wrong. In my experience, all public servants are working hard, there is real innovation happening in the public sector and drive and ambition for a better future for New Zealanders.

“I know that we are contributing and making a difference and I can quite happily tell people that their taxes are being well spent.”

Clare has worked in a range of public sector roles at Housing New Zealand, the Department of Building and Housing, MBIE and now the Department of Internal Affairs; and has a track record in organisational development and  strategy, service design and cross-agency service integration.

She has worked for DIA for nearly 4 years and has just started a new role  — General Manager Hāpai Hapori / Community Operations.   Hāpai Hapori provides advisory and funding services, aimed at supporting Iwi, Hāpu and community groups in being resilient and achieving their aspirations.

Clare first came into contact with IPANZ when she was asked to present on SmartStart — the award-winning project that she led, which gives New Zealanders integrated access to information and services related to pregnancy, child-birth and the first six years.

With SmartStart, parents can choose which information they wish to share with different agencies when registering their baby, including Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development, to help streamline the services they receive.  The service was developed with extensive consultation with New Zealanders — something that Clare is very proud of.

“We are not just looking to deliver services but to deliver services that make a difference... We spend a lot of time in DIA making sure we are talking to actual New Zealanders and canvassing them for what they actually need.”

Clare says that sort of integrated service delivery designed around New Zealanders needs rather than government agency structures is the future of Government in New Zealand. And she hopes that through her role on the IPANZ Board she can continue to be influential on that.

“I think we have some ways to go to reach the potential of our collective impact. The public sector reforms will take us some way there and then it will require all of us working differently and thinking differently about the impact that we can have together for New Zealanders,” Clare says.

“Any one organisation can do good things but because the events that happen in the lives of New Zealanders are very rarely boxed into one agency’s deliverables it requires all of us working together.

“I am able to be a voice on the IPANZ board for delivering services in the way that the government wants to deliver services in the future — because I already have experience doing that, and while it isn’t easy, it is do-able.”

Wellington born and bred, Clare joined the IPANZ Board in July 2019.

She and her husband Ari have two children — Hannah, 11 and Sophia is 7. Much of their home-life is shaped around Sophia’s needs and challenges (she has a rare form of epilepsy) but Clare also loves to travel and to pamper herself (two interests she will be combining on a trip to New York that has been rescheduled for late this year!)

Anthony Richards - Pride and Passion for the Public Service

After more than 30 years in the public sector, Anthony Richards remains fascinated by NZ history, politics, policy and democracy and what makes our society tick.

Public service is more than just a day job — Even out of hours, Anthony is often found reading books or watching content related to policy, history, economics and politics.

Anthony was first drawn to politics and government as a student, studying public administration at Victoria University of Wellington.

He did a brief stint after university as a filing clerk at a recruitment  agency, before his first job with Internal Affairs (in 1987), and has worked in the public sector ever since.

He has worked in or been seconded to a wide range of agencies including Commerce, Labour, Environment, Transport, Primary Industries, Ministers offices — and is now the Chief Advisor to the Deputy Chief Executive of the National Emergency Management Agency.

And he remains fascinated by the role of government and democracy in responding to the problems that modern societies have to address.

“I see how important a well run government administration is for a country. And by contrast with what is going on in some other parts of the  of the world I think New Zealand has a well run public sector. It is not to say there aren’t things that still need fixing, but as a country and as a public service I think we value openness and fairness, there’s a lack of corruption, and there is transparency, and none of these things happens by accident. It needs people with goodwill and good skills to continue that.”

“I like being able to be part of helping. There is so much that goes to keep the system running well that there are also lots of opportunities to do meaningful and useful things even if you’re not working on the front page newspaper stuff.”

He says the thing that stands out from his career is the variety and the opportunity to be involved in things that matter. “One thing I have learnt is that with pretty much everything that the Government does, it matters that it’s done well.”

“I’ve come to see how much I value the kinds of things that IPANZ stands for — an effective public service that is as far as possible meeting the needs of as many people as possible. That involves hard work and discipline and there is an extent to which that is often not understood or appreciated. It is always a work in progress.”

He says IPANZ has an important role in saying and promoting things that public servants in their day jobs can’t necessarily say.

“There are a lot of people in the government who care about the public service beyond their day job and that IPANZ has quite an impressive role in that.”