Leadership and Structure

The leadership team of Whaikaha is led by Chief Executive Paula Tesoriero. Four business groups, each headed by its own Deputy Chief Executive (DCE), report to the Chief Executive.

Our Kaihautū – Chief Advisor Māori is also part of our Executive Leadership Team to support us to embed a Te Tiriti o Waitangi approach.

The six members of the Executive Leadership Team smiling together.
Left to right: Ronelle Baker - Kaihautū Chief Advisor Māori, Hayley Evans - DCE Corporate Services, Ginny Baddeley - DCE People and Culture, Paula Tesoriero - Chief Executive, Ben O'Meara - DCE Policy, Strategy and Partnerships, Amanda Bleckmann - DCE Commissioning, Design and Delivery.

Our Chief Executive

Ms Paula Tesoriero MNZM is the Chief Executive of Whaikaha - Ministry of Disabled People.

Paula provides strategic leadership to Whaikaha and across the disability system to achieve better outcomes for disabled people and tāngata Whaikaha Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Paula is well-known and a respected leader in the disability community. She is disabled and has a deep knowledge of the challenges and opportunities for the disability community.

Paula was previously the Disability Rights Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, a position she held since 2017. She also acted in the role of Chief Human Rights Commissioner from May 2018 – January 2019.

Paula is an experienced Public Service leader. From 2010 – 2016, she was the General Manager, Higher Courts at the Ministry of Justice. In 2016, she was seconded to Statistics New Zealand where she was the General Manager, System and Partnership.

Paula has served in various governance roles including as Deputy Chair of Peke Waihanga — Artificial Limb Service and Deputy Chair of Nuku Ora (previously Sport Wellington) and she served on the Board of Paralympics NZ. She is a life trustee of the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation and is an honorary advisor to the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

Paula is a Paralympian, winning a gold medal and two bronze medals at the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Kaihautū - Chief Advisor Māori

Kaihautū: Ronelle Baker - Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Ngāti Tāmanuhiri, Ngāti Apakura, Ngāpuhi 

Ronelle has extensive experience across the health, disability, non-government and government sectors. Her last role was as Principal Advisor Accessibility at Stats New Zealand, and she is currently the Chair of Spectrum Care Ltd finishing end of February 2024. Ronelle also serves on the board of Mana Mokopuna - the Children and Young People's Commission. 

Ronelle is a power chair user and her whānau have a wide range of lived experience due to the impacts of living with inter-generational Muscular Dystrophy. She is a passionate advocate for improving wellbeing, equity and inclusion for whānau who experience disability. 

Our Kaihautū is a member of the Executive Leadership team and provides leadership and strategic direction to ensure Whaikaha is grounded in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Kaihautū leads organisation wide initiatives to support Whaikaha achieve its Te Tiriti o Waitangi aspirations and support Whaikaha to strengthen its relationships with tāngata whaikaha Māori me o rātou whānau.  

Rights realisation and equitable outcomes under the three pou of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Enabling Good Lives, and the UNCRPD is a collective responsibility for Whaikaha, that will be supported by the Kaihautū and informed by evidence, engagement and system transformation. 

Whaikaha business group

Whaikaha is made up of four business groups: Policy, Strategy and Partnerships, Commissioning, Design and Delivery, People and Culture and Corporate Services. Each group is headed by its a member of Executive Leadership Team who report to the Chief Executive.

All business groups are focused on making sure that the work we do aligns with our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Enabling Good Lives principles, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Policy, Strategy and Partnerships

Deputy Chief Executive: Ben O’Meara

This unit is primarily public-facing and future-focused.

In addition to Policy, this team includes monitoring the quality of the supports we commission, and our important stewardship of the system function. This group will also lead our Transformation Office and establishment of our Transformation Board.

Their key tasks include:

  • Leadership/stewardship of disability in Government: Strategic policy, stewardship and capability building for the wider government system to better serve our community.
  • Voice: Enhancing mana and self-determination of disabled people and their families, tāngata whaikaha Māori me ō rātou whānau through effective ways of communicating with us.
  • Partnering: Partnering at all levels to enable mana and self-determination of disabled people and their families, tāngata whaikaha Māori me ō rātou whānau.
  • Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi: Supporting all our business units so that Te Tiriti is embedded in all we do.
  • Ensuring equity: Ensuring equity for Māori and Pacific people.
  • Listening, insights and learning: Analysing input from the voices of the disability community, data, evaluation and research to inform our work.
  • Building capability and capacity: Facilitate capability and capacity building so disabled people have a strong voice.
  • Quality assessment and evaluation: Establishing quality assessment and evaluation in line with EGL principles and the ongoing evolution of the disability support system.

Commissioning, Design and Delivery

Deputy Chief Executive: Amanda Bleckmann

This group was previously called Operational Design and Delivery.

This team is responsible for the commissioning, designing and the delivery of disability supports.

The purpose of the Commissioning, Delivery and Design group is to:

  • continue to support disabled people to live at home and in the community by responding to their prioritised needs through centrally designed services;
  • transform how supports are commissioned and provided to disabled people and their whānau so they can live the lives they want.

Within Commissioning Design and Delivery are the three Enabling Good Lives sites, Waikato, Mana Whaikaha and Christchurch.

People and Culture

Deputy Chief Executive: Ginny Baddeley

This team focuses on leading all aspects related to our people and culture.

As a new Ministry, Whaikaha has the opportunity to build an inclusive culture that is uniquely ours and to model what a diverse organisation looks like. Our People and Culture unit plays a key role in shaping and designing this work.

Its initial focus is on helping ensure we are the exemplar in the recruitment and retention of disabled people.

Corporate Services

Deputy Chief Executive: Hayley Evans

This group was previously called Performance and Governance.

Its people are focused on machinery of government, reporting and corporate functions including communications and engagement, and finance.

Their key tasks include:

  • The Chief Executive's office: Ministerial support, secretariat support, programme office and support to our machinery of government function to enable us to fulfil our responsibilities as a part of the Public Service.
  • Performance and governance: Ministry of Disabled People governance, accountability, reporting processes, privacy.
  • Corporate support services: For example, human resources, communications and engagement, legal, risk and assurance, property, finance, analytics and forecasting.