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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 became the Secretary for the Ministry for Pacific Peoples in February 2023. Gerardine brings a strong combination of public service and community networks, expertise, and experience. Gerardine brings a sound organisational development lens and is committed to making improvements to the way it delivers its services for and with Pacific peoples.

She joined the Ministry following her role as the Director of Pacific Health at the Ministry of Health. During her tenure, she led the cross-agency Pacific response to COVID-19 and the Pacific functions within Health New Zealand. Gerardine also held the role of General Manager of Child, Youth, Localities and Family Harm at the Capital and Coast District Health Board. Between 2015 and 2018, she was a self-employed consultant and a senior consultant for Pacific Perspectives Limited.

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.

Dr Corina Grey
Deputy Secretary, Data and Insights

Dr Grey leads the new Data and Insights directorate, which will work across the Ministry and other agencies to drive the collection and analysis of high-quality, Pacific-related evidence to inform decision-making within government and across Pacific communities.

She joined the Ministry in November 2023 after playing a leading role in the health sector during the COVID-19 response, helping communities across New Zealand to understand data and translate the impact on the disease pathway. Dr Grey has worked in various public sector roles and most recently has been Chief Clinical Advisor of Pacific Health at the Ministry of Health 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.

Dr Grey hails from the Samoan villages of Alafua, Tafitoala, Vailima, Safune and Gataivai. She has a PhD in epidemiology and is an accomplished Pacific health researcher.

Lucy Cassels
Deputy Secretary, Policy and Strategy

Lucy leads the Policy & Strategy directorate, which underpins the Ministry's role as the Crown's principal advisor on policies and decisions for improving Pacific outcomes. The directorate works across the Ministry, and with wider government agencies, aiding the development of strategies and programmes that support improved outcomes for Pacific communities.

In her career Lucy has worked across many areas of government, in diplomacy, policymaking and negotiations. She has extensive experience working on issues impacting Pacific peoples (including environment, health, international development, labour, migration and climate change issues). A seasoned policy practitioner and negotiator, Lucy has represented the New Zealand Government in a range of forums including the United Nations in Geneva, New York and Nairobi, as well as within the Asia-Pacific region.

She hails from Te Waipounamu, the South Island, and holds a Master's degree in Political Science; with a focus on Pacific development issues. She is proud to be of Fijian heritage, on her father's side, with family roots in Suva and Taveuni.

Sachi Taulelei 
Interim Deputy Secretary, Commissioning and Chief Design Officer

Sachi’s directorate leads all elements of the Ministry’s commissioning cycle: from planning and design to delivery, contract administration and monitoring of services. The Commissioning directorate also provides strategic investment advice across the Ministry and the regions.

Sachi has led large-scale digital programmes across several sectors (education, local government, financial services and technology) and in each of these her role has been to champion and advocate for the people experience.  Before joining the Ministry, Sachi was Head of Design at ANZ Bank New Zealand Ltd, 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.

John Tuamoheloa
Deputy Secretary, Partnerships

John leads the directorate that maintains and builds relationships with New Zealand’s Pacific communities. The directorate also leads the development and implementation of the Ministry’s engagement strategy to ensure that Pacific 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 Ministry’s 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.

John is Tongan, from the villages of Kolomotu’a, Utulau and Lakepa. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree (in education and history) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the University of Auckland. He also holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from the Auckland University of Technology.

Vaine Tutai (Ta’i) Richard
Deputy Secretary, Pacific Languages and Identities

Ta’i leads a directorate committed to protecting and promoting Pacific languages, cultures, and identities.  This directorate supports the Ministry, the wider public service, and the community to realise the potential of Pacific cultures and languages for New Zealand and its economy.

Under Ta’i’s leadership, the Ministry has successfully delivered several key Cabinet mandated priorities. These include the Pacific Languages Strategy 2022-2032, the Leo Moana Survey Project, and a refresh of the Ministry’s flagship initiative the Pacific Language Weeks series. Before joining the Ministry’s Policy team in November 2017, Ta’i was responsible for leading a four-year, teacher training pilot programme at the Ministry of Education called Teach First NZ, as well as the development of Tapasā, the Pacific cultural competencies framework for teachers of Pacific learners.

Ta’i is a born and raised Cook Islander, and is fluent in Cook Islands Māori. Ta’i recently completed his Executive MBA through Massey University. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Auckland.

Ali Ajmal
Deputy Secretary, Office of the Secretary

Ali leads the teams responsible for delivering ministerial and executive services, strategy and performance planning, governance and nominations, and communications.

He joined the Ministry in 2023 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 United Kingdom and New Zealand. He has primarily worked with Māori and Pacific communities throughout his career, and led investment and funding strategy teams at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Health Transition Unit, and the Ministry of Health.

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

Danilo Coelho de Almeida
Interim Deputy Secretary, Corporate Services, and Interim Chief Financial Officer

Danilo is responsible for leading the Ministry in the areas of finance, information technology, human resources, procurement, and property. He is also the Ministry’s Chief Financial Officer. This directorate ensures the Ministry has the right people, processes, technology, and funding to operate effectively and efficiently within public sector legislation and expectations.

Danilo has a Master of Science degree from Victoria University of Wellington. His career spans almost 15 years in the public sector. During his career he held a mix of operational and leadership roles including in workforce development and commissioning.

Originally hailing from Sao Paolo in Brazil, Danilo has lived in Wellington for the last 20 years with his wife and three children.