Independent group to oversee continual improvement in COVID-19 response

A newly established Advisory Group will ensure New Zealand’s COVID-19 response continues to learn and adapt with a focus on continual improvement.

Throughout our response to the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19 the Government has been committed to continual improvement, and independent advice has been a really important part of that process.

Independent reviews of our contact tracing systems and the implementation of our testing strategy provided useful advice and recommendations. Implementation of those recommendations has left us better protected and better prepared. 

This new advisory group will formalise that ongoing approach to independent review and improvement. As well as continually monitoring the implementation of previous reviews, the group will be empowered to provide impartial advice on the performance and impact of the whole system and the strategic direction of the response. 

It will also provide assurances on the performance and settings of managed isolation and quarantine facilities, and on planning for an outbreak, and will review public communications and responses in the community. 

The establishment of this group builds on other recent changes such as our work before Christmas to reorganise how government agencies operationalising the Elimination Strategy work together to generate stronger alignment between border and health systems. That’s worked well. 

Today, the new group’s formation, make-up and terms of reference are confirmed. It will start work next Monday 15 March, with a term through to 1 June 2022. 

The Group will be chaired by Sir Brian Roche, and is made up of the following members: 

  • Rob Fyfe
  • Dr Debbie Ryan
  • Professor Phillip Hill
  • Dr Dale Bramley

This is a group of highly respected and experienced experts, with strong connections across a number of fields:

Sir Brian has extensive governance, leadership and business experience; Mr Fyfe brings a senior business leadership focus; Dr Ryan has decades of public health service with a focus on Pacific Health; Professor Hill is an epidemiologist with expertise in infectious diseases and research; and Dr Bramley brings broad public health and governance experience, along with a Māori health perspective.

The Government thanks the members for agreeing to provide their expertise, as it continues to learn and sharpen its response as we enter the second year of COVID-19.

Summary of appointees

Sir Brian Roche, KNZM — Chair — Public sector organisation and performance

Sir Brian brings extensive governance, leadership and business experience.

He has held a number of senior leadership positions across the public and private sectors, including as a senior partner in what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers, as Chief Crown Negotiator for Te Tiriti of Waitangi settlements, as leader of the 2011 Rugby World Cup hosting rights bid and as Chief Executive of the New Zealand Post Group.

Sir Brian has also held numerous Board Chairpersonships including with the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Hurricanes Super Fifteen Franchise, and Antarctic New Zealand. Last year Sir Brian jointly chaired an advisory committee to oversee the implementation of the New Zealand COVID-19 Surveillance Plan and Testing Strategy.

In the 2017 New Year Honours, Sir Brian was appointed a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the State and business.

Mr Rob Fyfe, CNZM — Member — Business and tourism

Mr Rob Fyfe brings extensive business experience including as former Chief Executive Officer of Air New Zealand and as Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of New Zealand clothing manufacturing company Icebreaker.

In the wake of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake he oversaw Air New Zealand’s provision of cheap and flexible flights in and out of Christchurch. He was appointed in 2018 as independent advisor to Government on plans for the re-entry of the Pike River drift. He has previously been General Manager of the Bank of New Zealand and Chief Operating Officer of ITV Digital.

Mr Fyfe has been a Director of Jeweller Michael Hill International since 2014, an independent Director of Trilogy International ltd, Chairman of the CEO Board of Star Alliance, a member of the Board of Governors at the International Air Transport Association, a Director of Antarctica New Zealand, and is a current Director of Hammerforce and Advisor to Craggy Range.

In the 2021 New Year Honours, Fyfe was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to business and tourism.

Dr Suitafa Deborah (“Debbie”) Ryan, MNZM — Member — Pacific health policy and public sector

Dedicating over 20 years of service to the health sector, with a focus on Pacific and public health outcomes, Dr Debbie Ryan helped to establish South Sea’s Healthcare in 1999. She served as South Sea’s Clinical Director of General Practice for three years and as Chief Executive Director from 2001 to 2003. She was also Senior Lecturer of the University of Auckland’s Department of Medicine and Community Health and the Ministry of Health’s Chief Advisor of Pacific Health.

In 2008 she founded Pacific Perspectives, a consultancy providing Pacific mentoring, strategy, policy and capability development to the public sector. She is a past member of the Governance Group for the Ageing Well National Science Challenge and of the Expert Advisory Group of the Medical Council of New Zealand’s Best Outcomes for Pacific Peoples project.

Dr Ryan also has extensive governance experience including Ministerial appointments to Counties Manukau District Health Board, the NZ Lotteries Community Committee, and the Minister’s Education Guardians Group.

In 2016 Dr Ryan was presented with a Life Award by the Pasifika Medical Association for her exceptional and outstanding commitment to health service organisation or community. Dr Ryan was appointed as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2018 for services to the Pacific Community and health.

Professor Phillip Hill — Member— Medical practitioner and epidemiologist

Professor Philip Hill is a medical practitioner who brings epidemiological and infectious diseases expertise, research skills, and international experience, including having worked for six years as a clinical epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council (UK) research unit in The Gambia, working on tuberculosis (TB) and pneumonia projects.

He has led or coinvestigated on various grants including with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Fund, the European Commission, and the New Zealand Health Research Council.

Professor Hill is the first holder of the McAuley Chair in International Health and Founding Director and Co-Director of the Centre for Global Health at the University of Otago, which he established in 2008. He is involved in research projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and the Pacific.

Dr Dale Bramley — Member— Public Health, governance and Māori health

Dr Dale Bramley brings public health and governance experience and a Māori health perspective.

He is currently Chief Executive Officer of Waitemata District Health Board, the New Zealand Chief Examiner of the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine and an Adjunct Professor at Auckland University of Technology.

He was appointed by the Minister of Health to the Health Quality and Safety Commission Board in 2014, and appointed chair in 2019. Dale also serves as board member of the Well Foundation, Northern Region Alliance and University of Otago Dietetics Programme external advisory board.

Dale’s previous board appointments include to the National Health Commission and the National Ethics Committee. Dr Bramley was also a senior lecturer in public health for the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland.

Dr Bramley was awarded the International Harkness Fellowship in 2003 and has had over 50 published papers in peer reviewed medical journals.