Our people

We have a Secretary of Defence who is also the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Defence, and our senior leadership team includes five deputy secretaries.

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Helene Quilter: Secretary of Defence

Helene Quilter became Secretary of Defence and Chief Executive of the Ministry of Defence in December 2012. During her time here she has led a programme of change across all aspects of the organisation and the way it partners with other Defence and security agencies.

Before her role as Secretary of Defence, Helene was Deputy Commissioner at the State Services Commission where she was responsible for managing the performance of chief executives in the justice, defence, intelligence and foreign affairs agencies. 

Helene was previously a Deputy Chief Executive with the Ministry of Social Development.

Helene has a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies from Victoria University.

Helene’s current roles are:

  • Secretary of Defence
  • Public Sector Trustee on the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Trust.
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Tony Lynch: Deputy Secretary of Defence

Tony Lynch started as Deputy Secretary of Defence in June 2014. Before this role, Tony was New Zealand’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand with cross-accreditation to Lao PDR, Cambodia and Myanmar. Other diplomatic assignments have been to New Zealand’s Mission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta and the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra.

Previously Tony served as Foreign Policy Advisor to New Zealand’s Prime Minister, the Right Honourable John Key.

Tony has a Master of Arts degree in History from the University of Otago.

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Mike Yardley: Deputy Secretary Capability Delivery

Mike Yardley was appointed Deputy Secretary Capability Delivery in March 2016. Before this role, Mike served as Chief of Air Force, RNZAF, holding the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.

Previously Mike held many senior roles within the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) including Air Component Commander Joint Force NZ and Chief of Staff Headquarters NZDF.  As Assistant Chief of Air Force – Capability he led the RNZAF Capability Directorate dealing with both major and minor capital programmes including introduction into service plans for the B757, P-3 Orion and C-130 upgrades.  He worked with the Ministry of Defence to obtain government approval for the A109 Light Utility Helicopter.  Mike was NZDF Project Manager for the P-3 Orion Systems Upgrade, spending four years working on the project in both New Zealand and the United States.

In 2010 Mike was part of the team that designed and established the NZDF Capability Branch, and was Head of the Programme Management Office.

Mike began his career in 1981 as a Navigator on 5 Squadron, and later became Commanding Officer of 5 Squadron.

Mike has a Master of Strategic Studies from the Air University, Alabama and a Diploma in Military Studies from Massey University.  He has studied at the Royal College of Defence Studies and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

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gillian warren

Gillian Warren: Deputy Secretary Independent Review

Gillian Warren was appointed to the role of Deputy Secretary Independent Review in June 2017. Tū Aromatawai Independent Review is responsible for carrying out performance assessments of both the New Zealand Defence Force and the procurement function of the Ministry of Defence.

Gillian has worked in the national security sector since 2004. Her experience includes nine years in the Intelligence Community, and time on secondment with both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the NZ Customs Service. Gillian is a lawyer by training and worked for private sector law firms, both small and large, prior to 2004. Since joining the public sector, Gillian has held a number of roles that have given her a wide range of experience, including General Counsel; operational manager; data analytics manager; and has led policy projects to amend legislation. Most recently, Gillian led a project to build the NZ Customs Service data analytics capability, and helped to establish the Joint Border Analytics Group.

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Pasanka Wickremasinghe: Chief Financial Officer

Pasanka Wickremasinghe was appointed Chief Financial Officer in 2017. The Finance Division is responsible for managing the financial and accounting functions of the Ministry of Defence.

Previously Pasanka worked with Chorus NZ Ltd, where he was mostly recently their Manager, Capital Investment and Performance. He has contributed to the strategic and intellectual leadership of the organisation, with responsibility for strategy-linked and longer-term business planning. As part of this role, Pasanka was responsible for the planning, forecasting and management of Chorus's capital programme. He also managed foreign exchange exposure and business case processes.

Pasanka has also worked in the United Kingdom, where he held a number of senior finance roles for the NHS Lambeth, one of the largest healthcare service providers and commissioners of healthcare in the UK. Prior to that, Pasanka was a member of the Audit New Zealand team, where he worked with a number of government agencies and provided specialist assurance services in the areas of governance, risk, contracts and project management.

Pasanka holds degrees from Victoria University and is a Chartered Accountant.

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Carol Douglass: Acting Deputy Secretary, Strategy, Governance and People

Carol Douglass joined the Ministry in October 2011 as Director, Executive Branch. The Branch works collaboratively with the New Zealand Defence Force to support Defence leadership in their governance roles in respect of capability management and other areas of joint Defence business. The Strategy, Governance and People team is responsible for the Ministry's strategy, its governance and accountability arrangements, and looks after the Ministry's people and culture, as well as shared services with other agencies.

Prior to working at the Ministry, Carol held a number of positions in Wellington and overseas with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which have given her a strong knowledge of New Zealand's security interests and the role played by Defence.

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