Notable Alumni - Melanie Mark-Shadbolt

BA (Political Science) 2002

Deputy Secretary Tūmatakōkiri (Māori Rights & Interests) for the Ministry for the Environment

Melanie Mark-Shadbolt

Melanie Mark-Shadbolt is of Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Ngāti Porou, Te Arawa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Te Atiawa, Mackintosh and Gunn descent. Currently Deputy Secretary Tūmatakōkiri (Māori Rights & Interests) for the Ministry for the Environment, Melanie’s expertise in biodiversity and driving environmental outcomes are underpinned by an indigenous world view. Melanie has over 10 years’ leadership experience at board, CE and senior management level, and is passionate about using strong research and policy to empower communities and create a healthier environment for all New Zealanders.

Melanie is passionate about the environment, indigenous rights and the empowerment of communities to manage their own resources, also currently sitting as the Kaiwhakahaere Chief Executive at Te Tira Whakamātaki. Te Tira Whakamātaki, translateed as 'the Watchful Ones' - is a Māori environmental not-for-profit, and home of the Māori biosecurity network. The charitable Foundation’s focus is on indigenous solutions for a better planet, particularly focused on addressing the biodiversity crisis and ensuring Aotearoa’s biosecurity systems are Treaty centred.

Melanie also provides governance, direction and support to a number of boards and groups including the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge, the Project Crimson Trust, the Collaboration Council at B3 Better Border Biosecurity, Tāpui Aotearoa, Mai te Manawa research consultancy, and NZ’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge. Melanie reflects back on her time at UC below:


What drew you to study a BA (Political Science) at UC?
I didn’t start off studying political science but ended up there because I absolutely loved it. Like many young Māori I was the first in my whānau to go to university and my father actually enrolled me. Like many Māori fathers he thought law was important for Māori development, however I didn’t enjoy it and found myself increasingly drawn to Māori Studies and Political Science, especially the parts that overlap i.e., understanding systems of governance and power, and political behaviour. 

Has your career evolved the way you expected?
Not at all, I didn’t have a plan for how it would evolve so I guess it’s been an organic evolution.

What would be your career highlight to date?
I’m not sure I have one career highlight but what has been game changing for me in my career has been two decisions to move from an area I was comfortable in, to a new role that required me to learn a lot very quickly (from Ngāi Tahu to Lincoln University, and from Lincoln University to the Ministry for the Environment). Both times I’ve done that I’ve had success, enjoyed my work, and done something useful for the communities I serve.

What goals do you hope to achieve with the Ministry for the Environment?
I joined the Ministry in the hope that I could bring a Tiriti-led science-policy approach, embedded in te ao Māori views, to work that impacts te taiao (the environment).   My goal then is to ensure I create systems that increase Māori participation and leadership in environmental decision-making, and anchor those systems in te ao Māori concepts. I want to see New Zealanders have a conversation about our shared environmental values and our hopes and desires for our environment. A shared 100-year vision for te taiao would be an outstanding achievement for Aotearoa New Zealand.

What motives / inspires you?
Ultimately, I’m motivated by the desire to reclaim my whakapapa and rangatiratanga, and help others do the same. For me this means doing stuff that I know will make a difference, have an impact, and nurture the next generation. Part of reclaiming our culture is connected to our understanding of nature-human interactions and living by values such as manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, and kotahitanga.  

In addition to your role at the Ministry for Education you are a Director on many different boards and businesses. Tell us more about what that entails and what drives you?
I sit on a number of boards, kāhui, governance and advisory groups, most of which are a labour of love or hope. That means I give my time to those groups because I am passionate about the work or entity, or I’m hopeful it will benefit in some way the communities I serve.  I give up my time to take on these roles because I genuinely believe they will protect or enhance our environment, and or make systems more Treaty-compliant and inclusive of Māori.  I’m absolutely committed to bringing the next generation of leaders through and so where I can I bring an emerging leader along with me to sit in and learn. In fact that’s going to be a new requirement for having me on a board – creating space for an emerging leader at the table.

Looking back at your time at UC, what memories and experiences have stayed with you?
My time at UC as a student was enjoyable and I loved the extra courses I took like Antarctic Studies. However, the most valuable thing I got from my time as a student was the network I built via the Māori student support systems. Without that support system I would never have made it through my studies. As a mother of UC students, I’ve been extremely impressed by the induction process, opportunities, and support offered to Māori rangatahi.