Hawke's Bay District Health Board chief executive Kevin Snee has resigned to take up the position of chief executive for Waikato District Health Board.

Dr Snee has been with Hawke's Bay DHB for nearly 10 years and is one of the longest-serving DHB chief executives in New Zealand.

Snee, a former GP, moved from the United Kingdom, where he was the chief executive of the National Health Service in Devon, to take up the role in October 2009, joined by his wife Ann and three children.

Snee said the attraction to Waikato, was in many ways similar to what had attracted him to the job in Hawke's Bay.


"As we have made improvements in Hawke's Bay through better relationships with a variety of partners, including our iwi Ngati Kahungunu, I will be looking to build those strong relationships with strategic partners in Waikato.

"It's been a privilege working in Hawke's Bay. It's been incredibly rewarding working with such a committed and passionate workforce."

Snee, who first worked with the then Government-appointed commissioner Sir John Anderson, said he was looking forward to being able to replicate that same good working relationship with Waikato's Government appointed Commissioner Karen Poutasi.

Snee will be the first permanent chief executive at Waikato since October 2017, when Nigel Murray quit part way through an investigation into his finances.

"There has been a long period of uncertainty in Waikato, and while I'm not underestimating the challenge, I hope to return stability to the district health board," Snee said.

Board member Diana Kirton, who has served during Snee's full tenure, said this opportunity plays to his strength.

"Within the first few years, he took us from zero to hero as far as DHBs were concerned and the HBDHB became the exemplar DHB.

"I've always enjoyed working with him as a board member."


One of Snee's strangest moments during his tenure was in 2013 when he was seen stomping, forcefully removing and attempting to smash anti-fluoride protest signs at a Board-organised public meeting at the Havelock North Community Centre.

Kirton said the past year to 18 months "hadn't been the best", but that was more because of the financial situation right across the country, with "nearly everyone posting deficits".

"But that's more a funding issue, certainly not Kevin's management."

More recently, industrial action has plagued the DHB and the attempted uplift of a baby by Oranga Tamariki at Hawke's Bay Hospital's maternity ward drew widespread criticism.

In February, it was found inadequately sterilised surgical equipment may have been used on up to 55 patients.

Snee said one of his biggest challenges had been the Havelock North water crisis, which was the largest recorded outbreak of waterborne disease.

"I am very proud of how the health system coped and worked together to support and return to health the vast majority of the 5500 people affected."

Snee said he was pleased to have completed a number of key projects after many years of them having been shelved.

This had seen the district health board build and open a new mental health inpatient unit, develop an extension to Wairoa Hospital, extend theatres, build new renal and endoscopy units and develop a primary birthing centre.

This was also done at a time when many DHBs were struggling to invest in infrastructure and staffing resources, he said.

"There is still much to do. Hawke's Bay faces the pressures of growing demand and is in need of a new hospital and I'm looking forward to watching that progress under its new leadership.

"I would like to thank my board in particular chair Kevin Atkinson who has been very supportive throughout my tenure."

HBDHB chairman Kevin Atkinson said Snee was highly regarded and it had been a pleasure working with him for the past nine years.

Snee will leave Hawke's Bay on August 9.

He will be working with the board over the next weeks to ensure appropriate arrangements for the interim chief executive are in place for when he leaves.

A permanent replacement for Snee will be recruited when a new board is in place later in the year.