30 Aug 2022

Paula Tesoriero named to head Whaikaha Disability Ministry

4:09 pm on 30 August 2022

Former Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero will take over as chief executive of Whaikaha Ministry of Disabled People from Thursday, 1 September.

Paracycling world champion Paula Tesoriero.


The 2008 gold and bronze medal-winning paralympic cyclist has been the Disability Rights Commissioner since 2017 as well as Acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner from 2018 to 2019.

She is a permanent appointee to the role after Geraldine Woods was brought in as interim chief executive when the ministry launched in July, due to a stalled recruitment process.

Woods is not disabled, but the Public Service Commission said at the time there had been a delay in finalising the appointment due to the personal circumstances of its preferred candidate, who was.

Disability communities were frustrated when the establishment group for the ministry was initially headed by a non-disabled person, saying it went against the "nothing about us without us" ethos of the disability rights movement.

In a statement, Disability Issues Minister Poto Williams said she was delighted "someone of this calibre, who has experience, mana and deep connections to the disability community" had been appointed.

"She is a widely respected and experienced leader with deep connections to the disability community ... I believe she'll do a great job putting the plans in place for meaningful disability system transformation and implementing them over time.

"I know Ms Tesoriero embraces Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and understands the Enabling Good Lives Principles and Whānau Ora approach, which are foundational to Whaikaha and underpin its mahi."

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

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs