Executive team 

The partnership between the Chief Executive Officer and Kaihautū (Māori leader) reflects the bicultural nature of the Museum. Te Papa ‘acknowledges the unique position of Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand and the need to secure their participation in the governance, management, and operation’ of the Museum.

Rick Ellis

Chief Executive – Rick Ellis

Rick has an exceptional track record in senior executive roles, providing outstanding leadership in New Zealand and Australia. His previous roles have included 10 years at the helm of TVNZ, Chief Executive Officer of Ansett New Zealand, Managing Director of EDS New Zealand and most recently, as Group Executive Telstra Media based in Sydney.

Rick’s has a passion for making Te Papa available to everyone in New Zealand and his extensive background in digital media is helping Te Papa to extend beyond the walls of our buildings.

With the strength of our excellent team alongside him, Rick is helping to ensure Te Papa can turn its vision to change hearts, change minds and change lives into a reality.

Arapata Hakiwai

Kaihautū (Māori Co-leader) – Arapata Hakiwai

Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou, and Ngāi Tahu

As Kaihautū, Arapata shares the strategic leadership of Te Papa. He provides bicultural leadership, guidance, and support, as well as further developing relationships with iwi. 

His leadership encompasses the Iwi Relationship Programme, the Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation Programme, iwi in residence, and the Rongomaraeroa Marae. His position and area of responsibility help to affirm the bicultural foundation of Te Papa and its significance within the museum sector and New Zealand.

Arapata brings more than 20 years of museum sector experience to this role. He was employed by the National Museum and Australian Museum in 1989 as a trainee exhibition curator for the Toi Māori exhibition.  His responsibilities and roles progressed to Curator Māori Collections, Exhibition Concept Developer, and then Manager for Bicultural Operations in 2000. 

During his time as Director Mātauranga Māori in 2003–8 (and Acting Kaihautū from 2007–8), he guided the direction of research into the Māori collections and the associated policies and practices surrounding Taonga Māori.

Arapata has been involved in the repatriation of Māori and Moriori kōiwi tangata over many years including from the Australian Museum, Sydney, Field Museum, Chicago, Glasgow University, Edinburgh University, the Royal Scottish Museums and many other museums in the United Kingdom.

He is currently leading a world-wide research project to identify and create a global digital database of Taonga Māori and Moriori in museums and galleries. The aim is to facilitate the ‘digital repatriation’ of these taonga.

His curatorial expertise, understanding of taonga, and ongoing contribution and commitment to Te Papa will be invaluable in leading the Museum towards achieving its Vision.

Tracy Puklowski

Associate Director, Museum of Living Cultures – Tracy Puklowski

Tracy has been working in the New Zealand cultural sector for over twenty years. This has included roles at Archives New Zealand and Waikato Museum of Art and History, and as Director of Te Awamutu Museum and Aratoi, Wairarapa Museum of Art and History.

Tracy worked at Te Papa between 2005 and 2011, where she held a range of positions including General Manager of National Services Te Paerangi, and Senior Operations Manager, Collections and Research. After a time at the Alexander Turnbull Library as Associate Chief Librarian, Research Collections, she returned to Te Papa in March 2013 to take up the position of Associate Director, Museum of Living Cultures.

In 2009, Tracy became one of a small number of New Zealanders to have participated in the Getty Leadership Institute’s prestigious Museum Leadership Institute (MLI) programme.

Tracy believes that museums should be places of debate, challenge, and encounter, and where long-lasting and reciprocal relationships are formed. She is passionate about the role museums have to play in contemporary society by exploring social and environmental issues.

Dave Robinson

Associate Director, Museum Operations & Services – David Robinson

David and his staff work across Te Papa, contributing to the Museum’s financial performance, profitability, and revenue growth, and supporting the development of new products, processes and services.

David came to Te Papa from the Ministry of Education, where he was Group Manager, Shared Services. In that role he was responsible for developing and implementing a shared service model for internal corporate support services, working with a team of around 300 staff members across a network of 42 sites nationally.

Before working at the Ministry, David spent six years at the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). In the role of General Manager, Customer Services of Defence Shared Services, he was responsible for the effective and efficient delivery of a range of corporate services to approximately 14,000 Defence Force personnel.

David also spent three years working as an Operations Manager for Housing New Zealand where he led the Southern region's operations. This included responsibility for building and managing relationships with 15 local authorities, local iwi, MPs, Ministers, government agencies, and community stakeholders.

Phil Smith

Associate Director, Te Papa Enterprises – Phil Smith

Phil is responsible for finding new ways to generate revenue, expanding Te Papa’s activities and reach across Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas. This involves developing new sponsorships and partnerships, working with colleagues across Te Papa to commercialise the way in which the Museum does business, and accelerating the development of new products, processes and services.

Phil came to Te Papa from NMGW Enterprises Ltd (the trading company of Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales), where he was Chief Executive Officer for eight years. His role there was focused on maximising the Museum’s commercial turnover and profit from a wide variety of sources. He was also responsible for raising the Museum's profile and developing a more commercial culture.

Before working at National Museum Wales, Phil spent 15 years working for a number of high-profile retailers, including WH Smith and Virgin.

Karen Mason

Associate Director, Museum for the Future – Karen Mason

In Karen’s role as leader of the Museum for the Future, she is responsible for contributing to the implementation of Te Papa's new vision and strategic plan. This plan has an increased focus on art, science, and technology, and the ways in which these disciplines may be explored to challenge thought and action in the contemporary world.

Karen has a unique blend of experience in web communications, digital media, fine arts and design, entomology, education, and museum management. From 1990, she was a member of Te Papa’s Day 1 exhibition development team. In 1998, she moved into the commercial sector and for 11 years specialised in online, interactive technologies, working with one of New Zealand’s leading web agencies.

In 2004, Karen was appointed Head of the Art and Design School at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. She then became the founding member and director of another online agency. In 2008, she joined the Executive Team at Auckland War Memorial Museum, where her portfolio included the management of Lifelong Learning, Visitor Services, IT and Digital Media teams.

Karen has won several awards for her leadership of creative and technical teams, the most recent being the top award in the Social Media category at the international 2012 'Museums and the Web' conference in San Diego.