A chief inspector for mines has been appointed in the high hazards unit in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Tony Forster is currently the principal inspector of mines in Britain, as well as being the chief adviser to the UK health and safety executive on mines rescue and emergency planning.
He is also on the board of the International Mines Rescue Body.
Mr Forster will head a team of four specialist inspectors, leading the ministry's health and safety work in relation to both underground and opencast mines.
Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says she is very pleased to have someone of his calibre in the role.
The high hazards unit was established after the Pike River disaster in which 29 men died, to strengthen the capacity and expertise to inspect mines and ensure safety in the mining industry.
Mr Forster will start in the role in mid-January 2013.
The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says new regulations are needed to ensure the new Chief Mines Inspector has the power to improve mine safety.
The union says the unit is already a big improvement on the old system. However, it says inspectors elected by union members are also needed to ensure mine safety.