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The role was created late last year by chief executive Peter Bodeker as part of the council's restructuring of its senior management, including the loss of two directors' jobs.
Mrs Leahy said she was looking forward to the new job, which had been created to help the council implement its 6A water quality plan changes.
''It's an opportunity to make a difference.''
The only way the changes were going to be successful was by working with those who would make it happen, she said.
For the past six years Mrs Leahy, a ''Canterbury girl'' educated at the University of Otago, had been running her own communications and human resources company, working nationally for organisations in mining, dairy, health and biotechnology.
Mr Bodeker said Mrs Leahy's appointment concluded the restructuring process.
He had been overseeing the new directorate while the regional council went through the appointment process.
Engaging with council stakeholders was seen as an important part of the implementation of water quality and quantity plan changes in coming years, he said.
The new directorate took on roles held within other directorates such as the land resources and customer services teams.
An additional field position had been created as well, with resident stakeholder engagement staff now based in Alexandra and Oamaru, he said.
''It's better to have these people in the communities where they can attend events and meetings and work directly with people rather than travelling from Dunedin.''
Mrs Leahy will join the council's four other directors, who handle finance, environmental monitoring, policy and planning and science and engineering, on June 23.