Former Environment Minister Simon Upton will take the reigns of the OECD's environment arm, heading the team that runs an eye over countries' environment policies and helps governments tackle thorny issues such as water shortages and climate change.

The former minister in the 1990s National Government has been appointed director of the Environment Directorate, one of several specialist agencies within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Mr Upton said yesterday the agency - which has called for strong action on climate change and other environmental issues - was the best inter-governmental group in the world at putting economic and environmental concerns side-by-side.

He said he would try and provide a link between politicians and analysts.

"The last director was a very highly skilled resource economist. I'm not an economist so obviously I've got a different skill set."

As director, Mr Upton will oversee the agency's periodic reviews of New Zealand's environmental policies, including the Resource Management Act, which he helped shepherd through Parliament in 1991.

He will travel backwards and forwards to Paris, where his new job is based, between now and taking office on April 1.