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Our senior staff

Our senior leadership team ensures HRC's policies and procedures are as robust and transparent as possible.

Professor Sunny Collings

Sunny Collings HRC

Chief Executive

Professor Sunny Collings became CEO of the HRC in February 2020, following nine years as Dean and Head of Campus at the University of Otago Wellington. Sunny is currently focused on working with colleagues at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and the Ministry of Health, to implement New Zealand’s first Health Research Strategy. A significant part of this is making sure that health service providers are involved in research to help enhance and transform how healthcare is delivered: As a first step, the HRC has launched new health delivery research funding opportunities designed to broaden research participation by the health sector and help improve health outcomes for all New Zealanders.

A University of Otago graduate, Sunny has a background as a clinician and researcher, having practiced as a Consultant Psychiatrist for over 25 years, and led a research team at the University of Otago Wellington. Her own research focuses on suicide and suicide prevention from a critical perspective.

Dr Vernon Choy

Dr Vernon Choy HRC NZ

Director of Research Investment and Contracts

Vernon Choy has overall responsibility for the Research Investments and Contracts directorate.

This directorate is responsible for all HRC funding opportunities, including our annually-run funding rounds, career development awards, research partnerships, and funding for Māori and Pacific health research.


The staff prepare application documentation, receive and process applications, and manage all elements relating to research contracts, such as initiation, monitoring and reporting. They also form and oversee the statutory HRC Research Committees and manage the peer review process through our various assessing committees.

Grant Barnett

Grant Barnett HRC NZ

Director, Business Operations and Chief Financial Officer

Grant Barnett manages the provision of financial accounting services to the HRC by ensuring financial and accounting policies, procedures and practices are developed, implemented and maintained.

He is involved with negotiating our output agreements with government ministries and our funding agreements with other entities. He also administers any financial matters relating to any contracts entered into by the HRC.

He’s responsible for the preparation of all financial reporting and ensuring that the HRC meets all statutory and legal requirements relating to financial and accounting functions.

Dr Tania Pocock

Dr Tania Pocock HRC NZ

Director, Policy and Strategy

Tania is responsible for policy, strategy, evaluation, strategic relationships and communications at the HRC.

In her role she contributes to the development of policies, strategies, and priorities to maximise the impact of the public funds invested in health research and demonstrate the value of that impact to all stakeholders.