National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC)

This committee has been established under the Animal Welfare Act to provide independent advice to the Minister for Primary Industries on.

The committee plays an important role in the development and establishment of codes of welfare and produces various information materials including a booklet on how to write codes: Guidelines for Writing Codes of Welfare Link to PDF document (427 KB).

NAWAC updates its work programme once per year. You can read the 2015 work programme here Link to PDF document (155 KB).

A full list of NAWAC’s functions can be found under section 57 (offsite link to of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

From time to time NAWAC publishes guidelines which set out the principles and procedures by which it operates. These guidelines are not intended as a legal interpretation of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and are updated in light of experience gained by NAWAC during its deliberations.

NAWAC is an invited observer of the European Forum of Animal Welfare Councils (EuroFAWC). EuroFAWC (offsite link to aims to promote sound scientific and ethical advice about animal welfare. It provides a platform for debate, for sharing information and views , and a network for members of the Animal Welfare Councils throughout Europe.

NAWAC holds four ordinary meetings per year. Meeting summaries can be found at:

In addition, NAWAC produces an annual report and these can be found at:


Members of NAWAC are chosen on the basis of their expertise. They may be nominated by a relevant organisation but do not represent the nominating organisation on the committee. Forthcoming vacancies will also be advertised on MPI’s website at (offsite link to and at (offsite link to (Boards and Governance).

The Minister for Primary Industries appoints each member, and the committee comprises:

There is a range of skills needed to be a member of NAWAC and knowledge and experience is needed in:

  • veterinary science;
  • agricultural science;
  • animal science;
  • commercial use of animals;
  • care, breeding and management of companion animals;
  • ethical standards and conduct in respect of animals;
  • animal welfare advocacy;
  • public interest in respect of animals;
  • environmental and conservation management;
  • any other area that the Minister considers relevant.

The committee's current membership is as follows:

Dr Kathryn B Bicknell BSc, PhD Kathryn Bicknell has a PhD in Agricultural Economics from the University of California, Davis. She is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at Lincoln University, where she teaches economics and statistics. 
Kathryn’s research is primarily focused on economic theory as it applies to such topics as farm animal health and welfare, consumer demand, environmental management, sustainability, and regional impact analysis.
Ms Susan (Sue) E Brown CA, BBS, Sue Brown is a Chartered Accountant with experience at senior management level in a range of both public and private sector organisations, two of which – in the past – were large veterinary practices (one as director and accountant and the other as CEO).  These experiences have resulted in an interest in animal welfare.
Sue currently serves on several boards and committees.
She owns and operates an aged care facility in Auckland and, with husband Bob – an Intelact consultant and retired veterinarian - owns and operates a 200 acre deer farm in Northland.
Mrs Ingrid N Collins MNZM Ingrid Collins has more than 40 years experience in corporate Governance. Ingrid’s expertise also includes 38 years in health management. 
Her day time job is as Chief Executive/Partner in the largest Medical Practice in Gisborne, Three Rivers Medical Ltd. She is a past member of the Maori Advisory Group to Ag Research at Ruakura and Waikato University.
Current directorships include a Trustee of the 28th Maori Battalion “C” Company, Chair of Whangara B5 Inc, Chair of Whangara Farms Ltd, board member of the Maori Red Meat Coalition and Co-patron of the Gisborne Malaysian Forces.
Dr Penelope M Fisher BSc, MApplSc, PhD Penelope Fisher has a background in zoology, ecology (studied in Victoria, Australia) and more recently wildlife toxicology (PhD from Lincoln University NZ).
She has been a researcher in the Wildlife Ecology and Management team of Landcare Research since 2001. Her research interests are in the use and environmental effects of vertebrate pesticides, behaviour and welfare of wild/’pest’ animals and island conservation.
She shares a lifestyle block with a retired greyhound, many Indian Runner ducks and miscellaneous sheep.
Dr John S Hellström ONZM, BVSc PhD John Hellström is a veterinary scientist with PhD in epidemiology. He has been a ministerial appointee as chair since 2009.
He was Chief Veterinary Officer with national responsibility for animal welfare from 1986 to 1991, and prepared the first version of an Animal Welfare Strategy for NZ in 2008.
John owns a chocolate labrador and a quarter share of 7 ultra free range chooks.
Ms Katrina (Katie) S Milne Along with her partner, Katie owns a farm in the heart of the West Coast.  Katie is the current chair of the local TB Free committee, president of West Coast Federated Farmers, and has been elected onto the board of Federated Farmers nationally.
Previously she worked at the local freezing works at Kokiri, where she was involved from carcass grading on the slaughter floor to food safety work in the laboratory, meat inspection on the chain, and eventually documentation of all procedures as they applied for accreditation.
She has helped local farmers set up numerous groups over the years - from solutions for nutrient runoff, to a farm plan project for lake Brunner catchment, and more recently (in conjunction with Landcare trust) the Lake Brunner Community catchment care group.
Dr David R Scobie BAgSc (Hons), PhD David Scobie is an animal scientist with a PhD that focussed on stress hormones and has been a scientist with AgResearch since 1991.
In his time there he bred a sheep with a genetically short tail and head, legs, belly and breech bare of wool.
He is servant to one cat, 6 free range chooks and 48 sheep (mostly with tails).
Mr Alan J Sharr CA (PP), DTM, MInstD Alan Sharr has been a member of the Canterbury RSPCA for 30 years and Secretary/Treasurer for the past 3 years.
He has owned a German Shorthaired Pointer, budgies over many years, and several cats; his current cats are from the Canterbury SPCA and are called Maisy & Lucy. Maisy was left on the Waimakariri River bank with her kittens; the other one was handed in as a kitten!
Dr Virginia M Williams BVSc, MACVSc, DipProfEthics, (chairperson of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee). Virginia Williams is a veterinarian with Membership in the Animal Welfare Chapter of the Australia and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists.
She has a diploma in Professional Ethics from the University of Auckland and spent fourteen years as animal welfare coordinator for the NZVA, and is now an Ad Hoc Consultant for the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC International).
She is a ministerial appointee as Chair of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee.
Mr Iain Torrance Iain Torrance is the Chief Executive Officer of Wellington SPCA. In 2011 he was appointed to the National Council/Board of Royal New Zealand SPCA. Elected Vice President in 2012 and reappointed in 2013 he also took on the role of Board Chair in June 2013 until the end of his three year term in May 2014. A background of twenty years in professional services, business development and management has seen Iain achieve commercial success in countries all over the world. Iain is a late in life New Zealand citizen, moving here from the UK in 2003 then holding roles at Ernst & Young, TelstraClear and Coffey International. Iain qualified as an animal welfare Auxiliary Officer in 2012. In the little spare time Iain has he enjoys the theatre, sports, travel, good food & wine and overall life in New Zealand. Iain has had several pets in his life, including a Californian corn snake called Squiggle. He currently shares his home with two rescued cats; Monty and Marwood. .
Dr Julie C Wagner BVSc Julie is a veterinarian currently employed as Product Manager Animal Health for Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-operative Ltd. She has previously worked in rural mixed veterinary practices and in the animal health industry. In addition, Julie was a member of the Veterinary Council of New Zealand for 12 years and was Deputy Chairperson for part of that time. She is also involved in Akaroa Civil Defence.


Operational research

MPI is responsible for providing the Minister for Primary Industries with policy advice on a wide range of issues.

A function of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) is to recommend areas where research into the welfare of animals is required.

Sound policy advice requires robust data. Where there is a lack of suitable information MPI may seek to contract a research group to provide it. This type of research – to develop and implement policy – is known as “operational research”.

Page last updated: 19 May 2015