NAWAC members

Information about the members of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

Membership and criteria

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee is made up of a chairperson, the chairperson of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee, and up to 9 other members. The Animal Welfare Act 1999 lays out requirements for membership.


Dr Gwyneth Verkerk BVSc, DPhil

Gwyneth Verkerk is a retired veterinarian from Hamilton. Hailing from a rural background, she worked in mixed veterinary practice and the artificial breeding industry before pursuing doctorate studies. During the second part of her career she was employed by DairyNZ (and its predecessors) as an animal scientist. Gwyneth has previously served as a member of NAWAC (from 2003 to 2009) and represented New Zealand internationally within OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and the International Dairy Federation. Her lifelong interest in New Zealand’s natural landscapes and ecology has also resulted in her involvement in several Waikato organisations focused on environmental protection and enhancement.


Dr Arnja R Dale BSc, GDipNFPL, GDipHE, MSc, MSc (Hons), PhD

Arnja is the chief scientific officer at the SPCA and has over 25 years’ experience in animal welfare science. Prior to this, Arnja was a senior lecturer in animal welfare science, law and ethics, and led the animal welfare investigations training programme at Unitec for 14 years. Before this, she worked overseas. Arnja is on a number of boards and committees and is committed to meaningful and sustainable animal welfare improvements.

Dr Julie Wagner BVSc

Julie is a veterinarian 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.

Ms Katrina (Katie) Milne

Along with her partner, Katie owns a farm in the heart of the West Coast. Katie is the chair of the local TB Free committee and is National President of Federated Farmers. 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 run-off, 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 Graeme Doole BAppSc, MAppEc, PhD 

Graeme Doole was appointed to NAWAC to provide knowledge and experience within the broad area of agricultural economics. Graeme grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Taihape, and has a background in pastoral farm management. His research is focused on understanding the implications of alternative management strategies for farm performance, especially in the financial and animal-welfare space.  Graeme formerly acted as an economic advisor to regional and national government, concerning the on-farm impacts of environmental policy, as well as holding a professorial role at Waikato University. He is currently the principal economist at DairyNZ, where he leads the economics team and works to provide a richer understanding of the policy-farm nexus.

Dr Karin Schütz MSc, PhD

Karin Schütz was nominated by the New Zealand Society of Animal Production to provide knowledge and experience of animal science. Karin is an animal scientist with a MSc in biology and PhD in ethology that focused on behavioural and genetic changes due to selection for high production in chickens. She was born and raised in Sweden and has been a scientist with AgResearch since 2004 where she is mainly working with the welfare of dairy cattle. She is currently proud 'owner' of 4 cats that decided that a domesticated life is better than gully life.

Mr Grant Shackell Dip Ag, Dip Field Technology, MSc

As chairperson of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) Grant Shackell is an ex officio member of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

Mr Nicholas (Nick) Poutu MSc

Nick has 10 years of experience working in vertebrate pest management as a technical advisor for the Department of Conservation, providing support and advice for animal pest control. This includes pest control methods, legislative and regulatory requirements, animal welfare in pest control operations, and wider consideration of hunting and killing animals in a wild state. He has been a DOC representative on the National Pest Control Agencies (NPCA) Management Committee which provided advice and quality assurance for the vertebrate pest control industry. Previously he worked for 6 years as a technician for Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, undertaking research on the control, impacts, and ecology of vertebrate pests. This included assessing the animal welfare performance of traps.

Ms Ruth Palmer MA (Hons), MPP (Distinction)

Ruth Palmer was appointed to the committee as a layperson. As well as her commitment to companion animals, Ruth has a keen interest in conservation. She lives in the ‘halo’ of Zealandia and welcomes the return of the native bird population to Wellington. She is active in pest control and management in the area. She and her partner also have a small holding in Otaki that includes a portion of a DOC covenanted wetland – Te Otepua – the wetland is actively managed by the private landowners with the assistance of Greater Wellington Regional Council and Kapiti Coast District Council. Te Otepua is of regional significance and provides habitat for threatened and indigenous birds. Horses, a lifelong interest of Ruth’s, and a small number of sheep and cattle are also run on the property. Ruth has had a long career in the public service and is a specialist in public sector management and in social and community policy.

Dr Ingrid Visser MSc, PhD

Ingrid Visser has researched marine mammals from the Antarctic to the Arctic as well as in New Zealand, where she founded the Orca Research Trust (  She is the co-founder of a non-government organisation (NGO) established to help whales and dolphins stranded and entangled around our coastline.  She has investigated welfare concerns for captive cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) around the world as well as the issues of using animals in entertainment.  Her research has led her to speak before international government inquiries, legislative hearings and court cases as an expert.  She is on the board of directors of a number of NGOs and coalitions all striving to improve welfare for cetaceans and promote effective research.

Who to contact

If you have questions for the committee, email

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