Stephanie Erick, the new Kaiwhakahaere (General Manager) for the National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service leads a rich, busy life but her vision for smoke-free communities is simple; “Healthier families. More kaumātua on the marae.”  

Stephanie has worked in a number of positions at Hāpai Te Hauora. Most recently she’s led workforce development in the gambling harm minimisation sector. CEO of Hāpai, Selah Hart, says “We’ve asked Stephanie to take this latest role because she has a long history in tobacco control. She’s well-connected, she’s smart and she’s just who we need to make progress towards Smokefree 2025.”

A proud mother of four -- Faith, 13; Elijah, 8; Isaac, 2 and four-month old Keilani -- Stephanie is excited to take on this latest challenge. “I’m honoured to carry on the great work done in this role by [previous GM] Mihi Blair and, before her, by Zoe Hawke,” says Stephanie. 

Before joining Hāpai in 2016, Stephanie was Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Prior to that she’d cut her teeth in various roles at ADHB and the Heart Foundation, including National Smokefree Youth Manager. A scholarship took Stephanie to AUT, where she completed a Masters thesis on tobacco control, before going on to launch the first funded Pacific tobacco control service, Tala Pasifika (recently relaunched in partnership with Hāpai by Edward Cowley). Through much of that time, Stephanie worked closely with then ASH directors Trish Fraser and Ben Youdan, which proved helpful when she found herself in the director’s role.

As director of ASH, Stephanie worked with eight full-time staff. That experience taught her the importance of reflecting on her work, and the need to continually strategise and prioritise. Says Stephanie, “I like to get the biggest bang for my buck with the talent and ammunition you already have.”

Highlights of Stephanie’s time in tobacco control include leading national smokefree teams and the successful ‘Stoptober’ campaign which encouraged smokers to sign up to stop smoking for at least a month.

After restructuring ASH, Steph was shoulder-tapped by then Hāpai CEO Lance Norman, and launched straight onto supporting their new national tobacco control service. Stephanie explains, “I walked out of the ASH office on Friday and started at Hāpai on Monday.”

At Hāpai, Stephanie has enjoyed supporting the sector, helping community leaders develop their skills and advocating for better local and national policies, always with teamwork at the core. “My style is [about] working with people who are smarter than me,” says Stephanie. “I’m used to working with a team where you share skills, energy, information and work together.”

Stephanie credits her early years working in the arts, alongside theatre directors like Sam Scott and Vela Manusaute, for building her teamwork  and leadership skills. “When you’ve got a production, a play, everyone works to one vision.”  

Mentors and role models for Stephanie include her own mother Maliaga Erick, Dame Tariana Turia, Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole, and “these days my eldest daughter Faith”, who inspires her because “she’s true to who she is. She has her own cultural and spiritual journey that she’s on, that she’s true to.” 

Stephanie says that whatever your role, it’s important to strive; “Deliver every task to the best of your abilities, because it’s likely you will use those abilities again at another time and place.” 

Now Stephanie’s eyes are firmly set on reducing the supply of tobacco and cigarettes. She’s keen to see research, strategy and above all, action.  “Move them out of dairies. Move them out of supermarkets. Whichever one is easiest. Let’s do it.”

In a job which is all about saving lives, Steph believes it’s vital to stay passionate, keep learning and look for upbeat allies. “Find other positive people!” she says.