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May Downing


Policy Analyst


Tell us about your path to becoming a Policy Analyst?

I studied a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) with a Bachelor of Social Sciences conjoint majoring in Resource and Environmental Planning at the University of Waikato. Later on, I did a Masters degree in Law at the University of Auckland.

After graduating, I looked for a job that would allow me to apply and develop skills in an area related to natural resource management. The Ministry for Primary Industries stood out as the place for me and has been thoroughly rewarding.


What does a Policy Analyst actually do?

Every day can be different - my role can be quite varied and interesting. The work my team has been involved in, so far, includes: Maori agribusiness, providing advice on Treaty settlements, providing input into legislative reform and an MPI Investment Strategy. 

Each topic has allowed me to explore new and challenging areas, undertake research and think critically. There have also been opporutunities to go out in the field and gain a better understanding of the topics I work on. 


Tell us about your current job and employer?

There are over 2,200 people all over the country working for MPI. We oversee all of the government work across the agricultual, horticultural, fisheries, animal welfare, forestry and food sectors, as well as biosecurity.

I work in the Partnerships and Portfolio Advice team (formerly Maori Partnership Advice). I've found Maori agribusiness projects a particularly intersting area to work in.

Under this programme MPI has worked with a number of Maori landowners across the country to bring together smaller land blocks, build economic scale and develop capability.

My main role in this has been exploring the skills and capability development opportunities out there for Maori agribusiness.


What is one tip you would give to students?

Keep your options open and don't be afraid to choose topics that seem unfamiliar or challenging. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the rewards.