A high ranking female officer has been promoted to police's executive level as Assistant Commissioner, the Herald understands.

Sandra Venables, who was the Eastern District commander, has been named in her new role along with two others.

The news comes after Inspector Tania Kura was today named as her replacement for the Eastern District, which accounts for the East Cape to southern Hawke's Bay. Kura had been Area Commander for Hawke's Bay for the past five years.

The Herald understands Venables' new role will be as Assistant Commissioner of road policing, a portfolio currently being covered by Assistant Commissioner Mike Rusbatch.

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Venables was the first woman to be appointed as the Eastern District commander, after first joining the New Zealand Police in 1994.

She began her career in Hamilton before working in Kaitaia, where she was promoted to sergeant and worked as the Northern District family violence co-ordinator.

She also held the rank of inspector while in charge of Eastern Bay of Plenty, and senior sergeant in charge of Waikato's Thames-Coromandel area.

In 2014, she attended the 2014 Gallipoli commemorations in Turkey as a liaison officer.

The Herald has approached Venables for comment, but understands she is on leave until taking up her new role later this month.

During her role as Eastern District commander, Venables was heavily criticised by Labour police spokesman and Napier MP Stuart Nash.

Nash said he lost confidence in Venables to police his electorate and claimed there had been a "hollowing out of policing" under her watch.

In September last year Nash agreed to stop his public criticism of Venables and highlight any perceived issues with the Minister of Police.

Sandra Venables first joined the police in 1994. Photo / NZ Police
Sandra Venables first joined the police in 1994. Photo / NZ Police

Superintendent John Tims, the District Commander for Counties Manukau, and Superintendent Wally Haumaha, the deputy chief executive for Maori, were the other two officers promoted to the executive branch of police.

"I am delighted to welcome both Sandy and John into their new roles within our executive team," Commissioner Mike Bush wrote in an announcement of the new roles.

"They bring with them a wealth and diversity of experience gained over their combined 55 years in policing.

"My congratulations also go to Wally on his well-deserved promotion and his continued efforts in leading MPES [Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services team] and the organisation in building trust and confidence in New Zealand's diverse communities."

The New Zealand Police has never appointed a woman to the rank of Commissioner of Police.

In 2001, Lyn Provost was appointed Deputy Commissioner, the first woman to hold a commissioner rank.

As of 2016, women comprised 32.19 per cent of all New Zealand Police staff and 19.8 per cent of constabulary staff.

By rank:
Constable - 21.4 per cent
Sergeant - 11.6 per cent
Senior Sergeant - 11.4 per cent
Inspector - 12.3 per cent
Superintendent - 14 per cent