Dr Karen Poutasi from Raumati Beach has been appointed a dame companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education and the state in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

"I was surprised and extremely honoured to find out I was being made a dame," Karen said.

"I see it as reflecting the success of the teams I have been privileged to work with in education and health, all of whom have had a massive commitment to the wellbeing of New Zealanders."

Working as the chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority from 2006-2019 after 30 years in the health sector which included 11 years as director general of health, Karen joined NZQA at a time of public concerns around implementation of NZQA's school qualifications framework.


"Education is fundamental to everyone having opportunities in life and I was delighted to be recruited as chief executive of NZQA to develop the services delivered there and build the team to support that."

Karen Poutasi enjoys kayaking off the Kāpiti Coast when she has time.
Karen Poutasi enjoys kayaking off the Kāpiti Coast when she has time.

In her time as chief executive public confidence in NZQA increased, as did performance in school qualifications assessment.

Crediting the teams behind her Karen said, "Any time we've been able to do something that makes a real difference for people on the ground, for those who use the services, that's what makes me proud".

Most recently at NZQA Karen was spearheading how the organisation adapted to vast advances in technology used in the classroom and how assessments could match those advances.

"We were looking at what learners need in the 'future world', one that is global, digital and connected.

"NZQA is putting NCEA exams online to match digitally enabled learning occurring in schools.

"We also established micro credentials (small packages of learning) for vocational learning post-school that can help for life-long learning and when changing jobs."

Now working as the commissioner for the Waikato District Health Board and deputy chair of crown-owned company Network For Learning, Karen has found it a privilege to work in both health and education because of the impact it has on the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.


"I am inspired when we are able to take initiatives to improve equity of opportunity for those who are disadvantaged and increase the diversity of our teams.

"Both sectors touch the lives of all New Zealanders in really important ways and it's been a privilege to make a contribution."

With no plans to slow down workwise, to relax Karen enjoys taking in Kāpiti's natural offerings.

She can be often found kayaking off the coast, cycling along Kāpiti's cycleways and taking walks along the beach.

With nine mokopuna (grandchildren) their company is always enjoyed whenever possible.

Karen was made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006 and received the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993.