The new head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be Brook Barrington, a former diplomat who has also worked at senior levels in the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice.

He will replace John Allen, the first non-diplomat appointed to the job in July 2009 from his previous job as chief executive of New Zealand Post.

Mr Barrington has worked at Mfat for 20 years, during which time he was foreign affairs adviser for former Prime Minister Helen Clark, Ambassador to Thailand and worked on international trade issues.

He has also been deputy secretary at the Ministry of Defence and for the past three years has been a deputy chief executive at the Ministry of Justice.

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He had been appointed for a five-year term beginning on March 23, 2015.

The job has been one of the highest paid in the public service and Mr Allen has been getting about $600,000. Mfat has undergone a major restructuring under Mr Allen and opposition to it led to controversial leaking.

Mr Allen is leaving to become chief executive of the Racing Board.

Mfat has 57 posts in 50 countries and has 103 accreditations to countries and 74 honorary consuls.

Craig Hawke is the acting chief executive.