Board Members

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The Board is appointed by the Minister of Health and currently has seven members.

Anyone may make nominations to the Minister of Health of suitable people to be Board members.

The membership must include a majority of members who are practicing dietitians and two Laypersons.

The current Board is: 

Laila Cooper of Christchurch – Practitioner - Board Chair

Laila is currently the CEO of Christchurch PHO. Her broad dietetic experience has been gained in a range of settings. These have included clinical dietetics, food service management, mental health service management, health promotion, quality, safety and project management, and as a dietetic tutor with the University of Otago. Laila has a particular interest in governance in the not-for-profit sector.

She has always been strongly committed to social justice, and actively works towards positive and equitable health outcomes for all.

Tom Shand of Whangarei – Practitioner - Deputy Chair

Tom Shand is the performance nutritionist for the Hurricanes rugby franchise, Wellington Lions, and Central Districts cricket team.

His recent work experience includes working with the Pulse netball team; diabetes for Northland DHB; as a tutor at NorthTec; and as a renal and diabetes dietitian at Counties Manakau DHB. He has previously worked in primary health care in the Horowhenua and Taranaki regions, and in various roles in the UK. 

Tom is passionate about using nutrition to treat and prevent chronic disease and believes that dietitians should be at the forefront of this.

Tom loves spending time with his young family, surfing, skiing, and running. 

Dr Soana Muimuiheata of Auckland – Practitioner

Soana came to New Zealand for further education and completed her dietetic training in 1995. She then returned to work for the Government of Tonga Ministry of Health before migrating to live in Auckland in 2002.

Soana is passionate about Pacific health and wellbeing, Soana has extensive practical experience in community dietary services for people with diabetes, training and education, public health, and community health promotion programmes. Soana is currently working as Dietitian Consultant, at Total Well-being Consultancy Ltd, providing dietary services for Primary Health Organisation including ProCare Health Ltd, Alliance Health Plus working at GP clinics.

Soana completed her Doctor of Health Science at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT). Her research was on “Food practices and diabetes Management: The meaning of food for Tongan people with Type 2 Diabetes in New Zealand”.  In her spare time, Soana enjoys serving her Tongan community through church, radio programmes, family, and community activities. She loves walking, swimming, eating and traveling.



Irene Durham of Whangarei – Layperson

Irene is a sixth-generation Northlander and lives on the Tutukaka Coast, Whangarei. She comes with more than 15 years of experience in active involvement in governance and consulting in both the private and public sectors. Irene currently holds several governance roles including Trustee on Northpower Electric Power Trust, NorthHaven Hospice Endowment Trust, and Kiwi Coast Trust. Her background lies in law, financial planning, investments, strategic business coaching, and business capability assessment.

Irene was awarded Aotearoa New Zealand Businesswoman of the Year, has a Management degree, postgraduate studies in Health Systems Law and Ethics (University of Otago), and a Postgraduate Diploma in Finance. 

Irene enjoys sports, reading, travel and time with whanau. 

Julia Hunter of Auckland – Layperson

Julia is of Samoan/Pākehā descent. She works in an Executive advisory role at South Seas Healthcare Trust, Ōtara’s largest Pacific health provider which delivers a range of primary care, community, and social services throughout South Auckland.

In previous roles in New Zealand and overseas, Julia has dealt extensively with consumers of health care services and a variety of health care professionals. Julia has worked as a legal advisor to New Zealand’s Health and Disability Commissioner. She was a research assistant at the Harvard School of Public Health and also worked in Boston over the same period for a healthcare consumer advocacy group. In London, she worked as a policy adviser in the Registration Directorate at the General Medical Council.

Julia enjoys spending time with her husband and two teenage children, tennis, yoga and learning Te Reo Māori.

Julia is passionate about communities having access to good quality health care, of which the responsive and accountable regulation of health care professionals is a key component.