Leadership and Structure

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

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Our Chief Executive 

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

Paula is responsible for providing strategic leadership to Whaikaha and across the system to achieve better outcomes for disabled people in 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 

Marama Parore (Ngāti Whātua) is Kaihautū - Chief Advisor Māori.

Marama has worked in the health sector for over 30 years in a range of organisations, Government and non-Government. Her roles have included working as a nurse, educator, planner, Māori health Equity and Te Tiriti o Waitangi advocate. 

In addition to being Kaihautū, Chief Advisor Māori at Whaikaha, Marama also works in Te Aka Whai Ora as the Whānau Voice Lead.  

Her key priorities are to amplify the voice of Tāngata whaikaha Māori, and to embed Te Tiriti o Waitangi in Whaikaha. 

People and Culture

Head of People and Culture: Ginny Baddeley

This unit 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 diverse organisation looks like.

Our People and Culture unit plays a key role in shaping and designing this work.

Whaikaha business groups 

Whaikaha is made up of three business groups: Policy, Strategy and Partnerships, Performance and Governance, and Operational Design and Policy. Each group is headed by its own Deputy Chief Executive who report to the Chief Executive.  

Policy, Strategy and Partnerships 

Deputy Chief Executive: Ben O’Meara 

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

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. This includes the Office of Disability Issues (ODI). 
  • 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. 

Performance and Governance 

Deputy Chief Executive: Russ Cooke 

This unit focuses on machinery of government, reporting and corporate functions. 

Their key tasks include: 

  • The Chief Executive's office: Ministerial support, secretariat support, programme office and support to the 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. 
  • Relationship management: With Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health and Health New Zealand. 
  • Corporate support services: For example, human resources, legal, risk and assurance, property, finance, analytics and forecasting. 

Operational Design and Delivery 

Deputy Chief Executive: Amanda Bleckmann 

This unit focuses on service delivery including the management of the disability support services previously held and funded by the Ministry of Health. 

Their key tasks include: 

  • delivery of the disability support system 
  • enabling person-directed support 
  • ongoing design and transformation of the disability support system, including implementation of EGL. 
  • operational functions including Operational Performance, Monitoring and Analysis, the Central, North and South teams, all three Enabling Good Lives teams and Specialist Services.