Executive team
Te kei o te waka

Meet the members of Te Papa's 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.

Chief Executive – Rick Ellis

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.


Kaihautū (Māori Co-leader) – Arapata Hakiwai

Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou, and Ngāi Tahu

Arapata Hakiwai

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.

Director Ngā Manu Atarau (Communities, Repatriation, and Sector Development) – Dr Charles Te Ahukaramū Royal

Marutūahu, Ngāti Raukawa, and Ngā Puhi

Dr Charles Te Ahukaramū Royal

Before joining the Te Papa leadership team, Charles Royal was Professor of Indigenous Development at the University of Auckland and concurrently Director of Nga Pae o te Maramatanga, an indigenous centre of research excellence hosted by the University of Auckland. During his tenure at the University of Auckland Dr Royal was also an invited Visiting Scholar at the University of London. Dr Royal is a former Fulbright Scholar and Winston Churchill Fellow.

In addition to his academic career, Charles Royal is an acclaimed musician and composer. His major works include Te Arikinui for tenor, strings and percussion, Reclamations for violin and piano, and Baxter Songs for baritone and piano. He has composed mōteatea for his music group Reo, including Āio, Te Take o te rākau, and I haere nei koe.

Charles is the leader of the modern whare tapere (iwi based ‘houses’ of storytelling, dance, music, games, puppetry, and other entertainments), an initiative based upon his doctoral research. He is also the author of six books all focusing on the aspects of mātauranga Māori, iwi histories, and traditions.

Chief Financial Officer, Lisa Tipping

Photo of Lisa Tipping

Lisa leads the team responsible for finance, procurement, risk and assurance, and statutory compliance and accountability

Lisa's experience is mainly in the commercial end of the public sector in executive management, consulting and governance roles.

Her most recent role prior to Te Papa was as an independent consultant, leading significant projects including finance function improvement, cross-government procurement, strategy execution, and the development of shared services models.  Lisa has also held executive roles at Housing New Zealand and Standards New Zealand, chaired the Audit and Risk committee at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, and held senior consulting roles at EY and Arthur Andersen.

Director Collections, Research and Learning – Dale Bailey

Dale Bailey

Dale and his team look after Te Papa’s collections, and share them with the public, ensuring as many people as possible can appreciate and learn from these national treasures. Covering natural sciences, art and New Zealand and Pacific cultures, activities in the group include curatorial research; collection management and development; exhibition development; learning; and public programmes.

Chief Operating Officer – David Robinson

David Robinson

David and his staff provide organisational infrastructure and support across the museum, including people and culture, communications, IT, facilities and programme management.

David came to Te Papa from the Ministry of Education, where he was Group Manager, Shared Services. 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.

Director Exhibition Renewal – Karen Mason

Karen Mason

As Te Papa undertakes the largest redevelopment in its history, Karen has overall responsibility for the renewal of Te Papa’s Cable St Site and long term exhibitions,.

Karen has a unique blend of experience in web communications, digital media, fine arts and design, entomology, education, and museum management. Before joining Te Papa Karen was a member of the Executive Team at Auckland War Memorial Museum. Karen was also a member of Te Papa’s original 1990 exhibition development team.

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.

Chief Digital Officer – Melissa Firth

Melissa Firth

Melissa has over 20 years' international digital experience across business strategy, innovation, user experience, and product development. Her most recent role before joining Te Papa was Head of Digital Business Development for Australia's public broadcaster, the ABC, where she and her team pioneered Agile and Lean methodologies to deliver audience-centred products and experiences.

Over the next few years, Te Papa Digital will be increasing ease of access to Te Papa's collections and stories for digital audiences. We will be developing new digital experiences, services, and ways of interacting with the museum.

Te Papa Digital also runs Te Papa's new innovation incubator, Mahuki. 

Director Commercial – Ian Crowe

Black and white portrait

In support of ensuring Te Papa continues to grow as a sustainable business Ian’s team is responsible for generating revenue for Te Papa through the effective trading of our existing commercial businesses and by developing new products, processes and services which are complementary to the aims and objectives of the organisation in addition to providing the best visitor experience to our guests at Te Papa.

Ian was previously Associate Director Commercial Services at the University of Auckland where he was responsible for the growth and development of a number of commercial businesses including making significant increases to the number of high profile events and conferences as well as revitalising the retail and visitor experience. Previously he lead the successful delivery of the hospitality and logistics programme for Rugby World Cup 2011. He has extensive venue and operations management in the UK and Australia where he has led operations in theatres, stadiums, art centres, palaces, and iconic sports events.