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 four deputy secretaries.

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Andrew Bridgman: Secretary of Defence

Andrew Bridgman became the Secretary of Defence and Chief Executive of the Ministry of Defence on 1 July 2019.

Before becoming Secretary of Defence, Andrew was the Chief Executive and Secretary for Justice, commencing that role in August 2011.

Andrew was previously the Deputy Chief Executive, Ministry of Health from 2007, and from August 2010 to January 2011 was the Acting Chief Executive and Director-General of Health

Prior to joining the Ministry of Health, Andrew was Deputy Secretary, Policy and Legal Group, Ministry of Justice. Andrew began his career in the Public Service in 1991 as a Senior Solicitor in the Ministry of Māori Development. He has a Bachelor of Laws Degree from Victoria University of Wellington and worked as a Solicitor in Rudd Watt and Stone (now Minter Ellison).

Andrew has led substantial change management programmes in large, complex departments and has been responsible for developing justice policy and advice to Ministers on matters relating to criminal justice and crime prevention, constitutional law, human rights and public and commercial law.

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Sarah Minson

Sarah Minson: Deputy Secretary, Capability Delivery

Sarah Minson is Deputy Secretary, Capability Delivery. She has over 20 years experience in the management of large projects and programmes. Sarah joined the Ministry of Defence in 2018 and spent three years leading the combat systems upgrade programme for New Zealand’s two ANZAC class frigates. She then took on the role of Director Air Domain with responsibility for several large capability projects including the purchase and introduction into service of the P-8A Posiedons and the C130J Hercules fleets.

Prior to joining the Ministry of Defence, Sarah spent 13 years working for Statistics NZ - New Zealand’s national statistical office. The majority of this time was on the 5 yearly Population Census. Sarah has significant experience leading software and data related programmes.

Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Bachelor of Commerce from Canterbury University, NZ.

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Richard S

Richard Schmidt: Deputy Secretary, Defence Policy and Planning

Richard Schmidt joined the Ministry after working for five years in the Policy Advisory Group at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, where he provided advice to the Prime Minister on a variety of portfolios. His work included firearms reform after the terrorist attack on March 15 2019, COVID-19 border settings, safe travel zones, and reconnecting New Zealand as COVID-19 restrictions were eased.

Prior to working at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Richard was the General Manager Criminal Justice Policy at the Ministry of Justice, leading work on domestic and international criminal justice policy. While at the Ministry of Justice he led the secretariat supporting the first Independent Review of Intelligence and Security in New Zealand.

Before moving into the Ministry of Justice, Richard worked for several years in the Health sector, including on the Board of a Primary Health Organisation, in senior roles at Hutt Valley and Wairarapa District Health Boards, and in a variety of functions at the Ministry of Health. Prior to joining the public service in 2005, Richard worked in private legal practice for seven years, mainly in property, finance and commercial law.

He holds an LLB (Hons) from Canterbury University and is a qualified lawyer.

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Mel Childs: Deputy Secretary Governance, People and Executive Services

Mel Childs is on a long-term secondment to the Ministry from the New Zealand Defence Force and assumed the role of Deputy Secretary Governance, People and Executive Services in May 2023. Mel has over 27 years experience as an Army Officer, working in a range of leadership roles across operations, training, capability, output assurance and strategic engagement.

Mel has deployed operationally over the course of her career and most recently led the NZDF response to Cyclone Gabrielle 2023. Mel has previously completed a successful secondment to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) as the Director of Operations, Managed Isolation and Quarantine in 2021.

Mel has significant experience in collaboration and provision of advice in both the national and international whole of government sectors.

Mel holds a Bachelor of Business Studies (Human Resource Management) from Massey University, and a Masters of Arts in Strategy and Management from the University of New South Wales.

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Anton Youngman

Anton Youngman: Deputy Secretary, Strategy Management and Assessment

Anton Youngman joined the Ministry of Defence as Deputy Secretary, Strategy Management and Assessment in November 2022. Prior to this he was the General Manager, Sector Insights at the Ministry of Justice, where he was responsible for performance reporting, data analytics, research and evaluation across the justice sector and judiciary.

Anton was previously a Strategy Consultant for eight years and before that was part of the International (mathematical) Modelling branch of the UK’s Department for Environment, working closely with the European Commission and the OECD on international tariffs and subsidies.

Anton has a BSc (Hons) from Cardiff University in Mathematics and Statistics and a MSC from Southampton University in Operational Research.

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pasanka wickremasinghe

Pasanka Wickremasinghe: Chief Financial Officer

Pasanka Wickremasinghe was appointed Chief Financial Officer in August 2017. He is responsible for providing financial services and advice to the Ministry to ensure the prudent fiscal management and finance operations of the Ministry.

Previously Pasanka worked at Chorus Ltd as Manager, Capital Investment and Performance. As part of this role he was responsible for the financial planning, forecasting and management of Chorus' capital programme.

He has also worked in the United Kingdom, where he held a number of senior finance roles for 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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Melissa Thorn: Chief People Advisor

Our Chief People Advisor is Melissa Thorn. Melissa brings a unique perspective to the Chief People Advisor role. She has a background of 20+ years as a public servant working in a range of roles across operations management, project management, and regulatory and assurance functions, in addition to HR.

For ten years prior to joining the Ministry Melissa was self-employed as a change management and HR specialist in both consultancy and contracting roles. She has worked on the largest restructure in the public sector, has consulted in the not for profit and private sectors, and has run a small business.

She has considerable experience providing advice and support to Chief Executives and senior management teams across numerous public sector organisations such as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Statistics New Zealand, Department of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs.

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Huntley Wright

Dr Huntley Wright: Assistant Secretary, Capability Delivery

Huntley Wright is the Assistant Secretary Capability Delivery at the Ministry of Defence. The Capability Delivery Division is responsible for procuring and delivering major military capability for the New Zealand Defence Force.

Huntley joined the Ministry in 2001 as an Analyst in the International Branch. Since then, he has worked in a variety of policy and capability management roles, including as the Director Development Branch, Private Secretary to the Minister of Defence and on the Defence White Paper 2010. In 2013, Huntley had a leadership role on the Defence Mid-point Rebalancing Review which balanced the Government’s defence policy, the capabilities required to deliver that policy, and funding.

As Assistant Secretary Capability Delivery, Huntley oversees the practice management and standard setting functions of the Division, including risk management, contracting, commercial policy and specialist advice. He also has a number of project governance roles. Huntley is a member of the Ministry’s Senior Leadership Team.

Prior to joining the Ministry, Huntley was a lecturer in History and Politics at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji.

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