Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is set to launch her own foundation for independent research into major issues of the day, including climate change and drug policy reform.

Clark, who was Prime Minister from 1999 to 2008 and then ran the United Nations Development Programme for eight years, announced that she would be the foundation's patron on Twitter today.

The foundation's board is chaired by her husband Peter Davis, a public health specialist.

The board also includes Clark's long-time friend and confidante Joan Caulfield, who served as her electorate agent, as well as accountant Geoff Pownall and lawyer Simon Mitchell.


It is unclear whether this is the same Simon Mitchell who once worked in Clark's electorate office and bought the painting at the centre of 'Paintergate' controversy.

Clark had signed a painting that she had not painted, and it was auctioned for charity. Mitchell bought the painting from the original buyer and then gave it to Caulfield, who destroyed it.

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams is an outreach advisor to the foundation, as is artist and long-time friend and supporter Helen Killser During, who was the photographer for the film My Year with Helen: The Helen Clark Documentary.

The foundation is partnering with the Auckland University of Technology and The Policy Observatory while the Foundation becomes established.

Kathy Errington, a former New Zealand diplomat who met Clark for the first time only last year, is the executive director.

"We're a think-tank and we will publish research papers on policy issues that affect New Zealand," Errington said.

"We're not partisan. Obviously Helen Clark's background is well known, but we don't campaign for parties or candidates."

The foundation's first paper will be on climate change and green hydrogen, including looking at how New Zealand could export renewable energy.


Errington said Clark was not involved in the research, nor did she have a veto on what the foundation publishes.

"On those operational decisions, she's not involved. She's way too busy to drill down into every word I write."

Errington said the foundation was first put forward last year by Clark's husband Peter Davis, and as patron Clark is not involved in day-to-day operations.

"But she will be present at some but not all of our events. Some of our topics will be based on topics that she champions internationally, for example drug policy."

Clark is a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which promotes drug policy based on people's health and safety.

Errington said that the foundation needed to fundraise, and believed the funding so far had come from Clark herself.

"We're just trying to get off the ground. Anyone who is keen to be part of it should feel free to approach us."

According to its website, the foundation's mission is to publish evidence-based research that contributes to a "more just, sustainable and peaceful society".

"Unacceptable levels of inequality persist. Women's interests remain underrepresented. Through new technology we are more connected than ever, yet loneliness is increasing, and civic engagement is declining.

"We aim to address these issues in a manner consistent with the values of former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who serves as our patron."

An official launch reception for the foundation is scheduled for March 21 at the AUT campus, followed by a seminar at AUT on April 3 on next generation energy issues.

Clark was last year named as patron of the National Council of Women.