Ministry matters

Paula Tesoriero named head of Whaikaha Disability Ministry

Former Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero will take over as Chief Executive Officer of the Whaikaha Disability Ministry beginning Thursday, September 1.


The 2008 gold and bronze medal-winning Paralympic cyclist has served as disability rights commissioner since 2017 as well as acting chief human rights commissioner from 2018 to 2019.

She is appointed on a permanent basis after Geraldine Woods was named acting chief executive when the ministry launched in July, due to a stalled recruitment process.

Woods is not disabled, but the Civil Service Commission said at the time that there was a delay in finalizing the nomination due to the personal circumstances of his preferred candidate, who was disabled.

Disability communities were frustrated when the ministry’s settlement group was initially led by a non-disabled person, saying it went against the ‘nothing about us without us’ ethos of the human rights movement disabilities.

In a statement, Disability Affairs Minister Poto Williams said she was delighted that “someone of this caliber, who has experience, mana and deep connections to the disability community” has been appointed.

“She is a highly respected and experienced leader who has deep ties to the disability community…I believe she will do a great job putting the plans in place for meaningful transformation of the disability system and implementing them over time.

“I know that Ms. Tesoriero adheres to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and understands the principles of good living and the Whānau Ora approach, which are the basis of Whaikaha and underpin his mahi.”

Tesoriero also notably opposed the euthanasia legislation that New Zealanders voted to put to a referendum in the 2020 election, saying it was too broad and ambiguous.