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Our Executive Leadership Team

Our Executive Leadership Team

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples Executive Leadership Team (ELT) is led by the Secretary for Pacific Peoples Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone. 

The ELT at the Ministry reflects the diverse nature of Pacific communities, with each member contributing a broad range of skills and expertise from working with Pacific communities to navigating machinery of government, and developing policy to service design.

Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone
Secretary for Pacific Peoples

Gerardine is the Secretary for Pacific Peoples and Chief Executive of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP). She assumed the role in February 2023.

Of Samoan descent, Gerardine holds an MBA from Massey University and a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University and is both a Winston Churchill Fellow and Salzberg Global Seminar Fellow.

Gerardine aspires to seeing MPP’s programme of work, and its people, continue to thrive and flourish under her leadership. She brings a strong organisational development lens and is committed to the Ministry taking a continuous improvement approach to the ways it delivers its services for and with Pacific people.

Gerardine has a deep appreciation for the skills and strengths inherent within our Pacific Aotearoa communities. She is passionate about creating opportunities for Pacific people’s voices to be heard around the table in key areas of influence, including policy, business, academia, social justice, and creative Pacific spaces.

Gerardine’s goals for MPP include becoming a best practice role model for cross-sector collaboration. She strongly believes that working in partnership for and with our Pacific communities under the All-of Government Pacific Wellbeing Strategy is the way forward to improved equity outcomes and empowerment at the community level.

Gerardine describes MPP as the government-level point of contact for those seeking ethnic specific Pacific knowledge, expertise, and links to the voices of our Pacific communities. She also sees the Ministry as a great incubator for Pacific public service talent, helping to grow a diverse and highly skilled Pacific workforce.

Gerardine joined MPP from her role as Director Pacific Health at the Ministry of Health. During her tenure, she led the cross-agency diverse Pacific response to COVID-19 and the establishment of the Pacific functions within Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand.

Gerardine previously held the role of General Manager, Child Youth, Localities and Family Harm at the Capital and Coast District Health Board.

Between 2015 and 2018, Gerardine was a self-employed consultant, including senior consultant for Pacific Perspectives Limited.

Between 2010 and 2012, Gerardine held the role of National Programme Manager, Sector Capability and Improvement at the Ministry of Health. She was Chief Executive of Taeaomanino Trust for nine years between 2001 and 2010.

Gerardine has held several community governance roles, including Chair of the Wellington Community Trust, and was Chief Executive of a Pacific social service and health provider based in Porirua.

Sachi Taulelei
Interim Deputy Secretary for Commissioning and Chief Design Officer

Sachi is Interim Deputy Secretary for Commissioning for the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.

She leads the directorate responsible for overseeing the entire commissioning cycle – planning, design, monitoring, and review of services.  The directorate leads functions for service design, co-design, investment, procurement, and contract administration. Guided by Lalanga Fou and anchored in Pacific values, they also provide strategic investment advice across MPP and the regions.

Sachi is a creative strategist and an experienced leader with more than 25 years of experience working in digital and design. Most of her career has been spent shaping strategies and experiences centred on people.

She has led large-scale digital programmes across several sectors (education, local government, financial services and technology) and in each of these her role has largely been the same - to champion and advocate for the people experience.

Before joining MPP, Sachi was Head of Design at ANZ, where she established and led ANZ’s Design Centre of Excellence, tackling complex business challenges using design thinking. 

Hailing from the villages of Samatau and Saoluafata (on her father’s side), Sachi is proud of her Samoan and Japanese heritage. She spent her formative years in Samoa, attending Lalovaea Primary School and Samoa College, prior to moving to Wellington to attend Victoria University.

Outside of work, Sachi is married to Mark and is mum to two children. She has a strong belief in service and finds volunteering keeps her grounded. She is on the Board of Trustees for the Young Enterprise Scheme, is a volunteer biographer for Mary Potter Hospice, and enjoys coaching and mentoring Pacific youth. 

Leatigaga Jason Tualima
Deputy Secretary for Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer

Jason is the Deputy Secretary Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.

As Deputy Secretary Corporate Services, Jason is responsible for leading the Ministry in the areas of Finance, IT, HR, Procurement and Property. He is also one of the youngest Chief Financial Officers in the government sector in New Zealand. The latter role involves managing the financial and accounting functions of the Ministry, as well as being responsible for making sure public money is spent efficiently and effectively on the areas the government has agreed on.

Jason played a pivotal role in the Ministry’s successful Budget bids since 2019, which has formed the largest investment in Pacific communities, utilising Treasury’s Living Standards Framework.

As well as thinking strategically about what public support Pacific communities may need in the future, Jason has been working extensively across the government to enable the Pacific Wellbeing approach to investment to drive effective and efficient initiatives to serve our communities. He is also currently leading the digital transformation of the Ministry on the back of significant catch-up investments.

Jason has a track record of working in public sector and banking. Prior to joining the Ministry, Jason worked at the New Zealand Defence Force and the Ministry of Health. Jason has also worked in the United Kingdom, where for two years he worked in the financial sector. 

Jason was born and bred in Wellington and is a true Hurricanes fan. He is the father of Patrick and husband to the lovely Sarah.

John Tuamoheloa
Deputy Secretary for Partnerships

John Tuamoheloa is the Deputy Secretary for Partnerships at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.

As Deputy Secretary for Partnerships, John is responsible for the directorate that builds and maintains relationships with Pacific Aotearoa communities. The directorate is the primary relationship manager for the Ministry at a regional level. It also leads the development and implementation of the Ministry’s engagement strategy to ensure that context, aspirations, and perspectives inform government decision making through its policy and programme work.

Since joining the Ministry in 2019, John has been part of the Policy team leading the development and implementation of the Pacific Economic Development work programme, contributed to budget bids, and authored the cabinet-mandated All-of-Government Pacific Wellbeing Strategy. More recently, John has led the Pacific Aotearoa Community Outreach as part of the Ministry’s COVID-19 response work to keep Pacific communities informed and safe from the impacts of the pandemic.

Prior to joining the Ministry, John has had a varied working career that has spanned across business ownership, and leading organisations in the not-for-profit sector focusing on youth development, community development, community education, training and employment. He has also spent time in Europe as a former professional rugby player and Tongan international.

John holds a BA (Education and History) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the University of Auckland and a Masters in Educational Leadership from the Auckland University of Technology.

John is a proud Tongan, hailing from his mother Vasiti’s village of Kolomotu’a and father Topuluka’s villages of Utulau and Lakepa. He is married to Maria and has twin sons – Topuluka and David-John.

Vaine Tutai (Ta’i) Richard
Deputy Secretary for Pacific Languages & Identities

Ta’i is the Deputy Secretary for the Pacific Languages & Identities Unit at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples. He leads the team that works towards the protection and promotion of Pacific languages, cultures, and identities. This unit supports MPP, the wider public service and the community in recognising the importance of Pacific cultural diversity, inclusivity, equity, and respect. The unit also leads approaches for priority population groups, Pacific disabled people, the Pacific Rainbow+ and MVPFAFF community, and Pacific youth. 

A proud born and raised Cook Islander, Ta'i is fluent in Cook Islands Māori.

Ta’i has over 20 years’ experience in leadership, management and governance roles in the public as well as the not-for-profit sectors both here in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia.

As the inaugural Director of Languages since 2020, Ta’i was responsible for establishing and guiding the team through challenging times because of COVID-19, providing translation and coordination support in the early stages to ensure accurate and life-saving messages were delivered to vulnerable Pacific families in a timely manner.

Under his leadership, the team has successfully delivered a number of key Cabinet mandated priorities, including the Pacific Languages Strategy 2022-2032- a world first; the Leo Moana Survey Project, a robust and comprehensive survey of over 3,000 respondents investigating attitudes to Pacific languages in Aotearoa; and a refresh of the Ministry’s flagship initiative the Pacific Language Weeks series, which saw unprecedented growth and impact since 2020.

Before joining the Ministry’s Policy team in November 2017, Ta’i was responsible for leading significant projects at the Ministry of Education, including the Teach First NZ four-year initial teacher training pilot programme targeting high calibre professionals in priority subject areas to teach while studying in low decile schools, as well as the development of Tapasā, the Pacific cultural competencies framework for teachers of Pacific learners.

Ta'i is a current Board member of Safe Man Safe Family, a non-government community organisation that provides peer-led support services aimed at ending family violence in Aotearoa. As Tangata ō te Moana Nui a Kiva, Ta’i describes our innate adventurous and collaborative nature, sense of stewardship and responsibility to serve others, pride in our work and striving for excellence as some of the key factors underpinning his leadership approach.

Ta’i recently completed his Executive MBA through Massey University where his research topic focused on the value of speaking a Pacific language in the Aotearoa New Zealand public service. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Auckland.

Ali Ajmal
Deputy Secretary for Office of the Secretary

Ali is the Deputy Secretary for Office of the Secretary at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples. He leads the teams responsible for delivering ministerial and executive services, strategy and performance planning, governance and nominations and communications.

He joins the Ministry for Pacific Peoples after leading several high-profile areas of work across the health and social services sector. A graduate of Imperial College London and the University of Auckland, Ali has a depth of experience across various disciplines, including strategic finance, behavioural economics, and public health policy across the UK and New Zealand. He has primarily worked with Māori and Pacific communities throughout his career, and his work for Pacific communities during the COVID-19 pandemic cemented his passion and affinity for helping our Pacific communities realise their aspirations and thrive as an integral part of Aotearoa's future.

Ali is a proud immigrant from Pakistan, where part of his family still resides. He has called New Zealand home for more than a decade.

Dr Corina Grey
Deputy Secretary for Data and Insights

Dr Corina Grey is a highly respected public health physician.

She also has a PhD in epidemiology and is an accomplished Pacific health researcher.  

Corina played a leading role in the Health sector during the COVID-19 response helping communities across Aotearoa to understand data and translating the impact on the disease pathway.

Corina has deep networks in academia.

She has worked in various roles in the public sector and most recently has been Chief Clinical Advisor Pacific Health at Manatū Hauora and co-director of Manawataki Fatu Fatu, a research programme at the University of Auckland focused on heart health equity for Māori and Pacific peoples.

She is Samoan, and hails from the villages of Alafua, Tafitoala, Vailima, Safune and Gataivai.

Lucy Cassels
Deputy Secretary for Policy and Strategy

Lucy leads the Ministry’s policy function, which underpins our role as the Crown’s principal advisor on policies and decisions for improving Pacific outcomes.

She is a seasoned public servant with two decades experience in diplomacy, policymaking, and negotiations.  

Lucy is of Fijian heritage and has had a long connection with policy and research related to the Pacific.

Her Master's thesis focused on the economic development of the Pacific Islands Region, and as a diplomat, she has worked regularly on policy issues impacting Pacific peoples.

She has represented Aotearoa New Zealand in a wide range of forums - including at the United Nations in Geneva, New York and Nairobi; within Pacific and Asian Regional processes; and within the World Bank and International Financial Institutions.