Public Service Commissioners
Russell Thomas (2012-current)
Mr Russell Thomas is currently serving as the Public Service Commissioner since March 2012. He has had a long career in the Cook Islands public sector. He served for 14 years as an interpreter for the Cook Islands Parliamentary Services. He later joined the Office of the Public Service Commissioner in 1996 as a Management Officer and was the Chief Executive Officer from 2002-2009. Thereafter he joined the Aid Management Division of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM).
Mr Thomas graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Management/Education) in 2001 and completed a Master in Business Administration with the University of the South Pacific (USP), Cook Islands Campus in 2008.
Navy Epati (2006-2012)
The late Mr Navy Epati was appointed as the Public Service Commissioner from 2006-2012. His career in the Cook Islands public service since 1990 started as a Senior Administration Officer for MFEM; followed by leadership roles within the Office of the Public Service Commissioner and as Secretary of the Ministry of Marine Resources.
Joseph Caffery (2005-2006)
Mr Joseph Caffery served as the Public Commissioner from 2005 to 2006. Prior to that appointment, Caffery was the Chief of Staff for Office of the Prime Minister from 2003 to 2005, Consulate General in Auckland New Zealand, Secretary of Trade, Labour and Transport, Secretary to Cabinet Services, Clerk of Parliament, Audit Officer to the Cooperative Society, and Chief Executive Officer for the Cook Island Investment Corporation.
Cecilia Short (1996-2001)
Cecilia Short is from a generation of public servants that were ingrained with a purpose. As a country taking on its own livelihood, the Cook Islands needed Cook Islanders coming through in key professions. Teaching was one, so that was Cecilia’s path. After attending secondary school in New Plymouth on a scholarship, Cecilia went on to Teachers Training College in Auckland in 1967. She graduated with a Diploma of Teaching as well as a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Auckland.
Joining the Ministry of Education as a teacher in 1973, then a Curriculum Adviser, Cecilia worked her way up until leaving the Ministry to become Public Service Commissioner in 1996. This was at a time when the country was about to go through the Economic Restructuring Programme which reduced the number working in the Public Service by 60 per cent. What Cecilia remembers most about that time is the teamwork; “It was a difficult time, but everybody had to work together.”
To be an effective leader, Cecilia thinks that as well as being prepared to work hard, you need to be able to; “listen and be willing to find solutions”. She also learned not to react immediately and make immediate decisions but to sleep on it. “Don’t make hasty decisions but also don’t delay things,” Cecilia said.
Cecilia thinks that the Public Service is a place that enables people to develop their skills very quickly through the many opportunities on offer. While this is an attraction, her advice to those considering a career in the Public Service is; “Don’t go in thinking that it will make you rich, go in with the mind of service to your people and that you can make a difference.”
Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts, University of Auckland; Diploma of Teaching, Auckland Secondary Teachers Training College, Masters in Science
Present Position: Retired
Richard Chapman (1981-1989)
From 1963 to 1968 Richard Chapman worked with customs and occupied various senior positions in New Zealand. In April 1968 he was appointed as Resident Agent for Mauke and coinciding with that appointment he was also appointed as Commissioner for the High Court for Mauke and Mitiaro. In February 1973 he was Secretary for the Ministry of Outer Islands Affairs. Later he was then transferred as acting Secretary for the Ministry of Labour and Commerce in March 1974. In August 1981 he was appointed as Public Service Commissioner, a post he held for eight years until March 1989.
Current and Former Heads of the Public Service
Anthony Turua is the new Secretary for the Ministry of Cultural Development and commenced employment on Monday 28 September 2015. As the former Director of Finance at the Ministry of Education and a member of the Ministry’s senior management team since 2002, Mr Turua brings a wealth of experience in public sector financial management.
Gail Townsend will commence in her role as the Secretary for Education on Monday 5th October 2015. Ms Townsend has been an Executive Director responsible for Planning and Development at the Ministry of Education and brings over a decade of policy, planning and senior management experience
Ngametua College Pokino
Mr Ngametua College Pokino will commence as the Secretary for the Ministry of Infrastructure in mid-October 2015. Mr Pokino is the Executive Officer for the Mangaia Island Administration and previously worked for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, and Bank of the Cook Islands. He brings experience in funds management including banking and finance to his new role. Mr Mac Mokoroa will remain as the Acting Secretary until Mr Pokino assumes his new post.
Ms Tepaeru Herrmann will commence as Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration in December 2015. Ms Herrmann is currently the Deputy High Commissioner for the Cook Islands based in Wellington, New Zealand. She brings years of senior diplomatic experience in foreign affairs and a background in business, trade, investment, and finance.
Tamari’i Tutangata has had a long and distinguished career in the Cook Islands Public Service. At various times he has held the position of Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Office, Secretary of Cultural Development, Secretary of Internal Affairs and Secretary to Cabinet. He has also worked for 16 years in Pacific Islands regional organisations such as SPC and SPREP. Tamari’i is presently the Chief Executive Officer for the Cook Islands Investment Corporation.
Over the years, one of the issues that Tamari’i has faced is the varying levels of capability in the Public Service. Capacity building has been a focus for him, particularly in technical areas where in the past, local expertise was limited. As a Head of Ministry, alongside that has been a focus on helping staff to build confidence in themselves. “Once you do that, they can achieve more than they thought possible”, Tamari’i said.
Tamari’i’s advice to people considering a career in the Public Service is:”grab any opportunity that comes up, with both arms and take it as far as you can”. For himself, Tamari’i still wants to be part of developing the country through his work at CIIC. Taking on the leadership roles that he has had in the Public Service, has been about challenging himself but also about helping to uplift the standards of living in our ‘ipukarea’ for which he feels very deeply.
Position Ministry/Organisation Date
Secretary (now titled Chief of Staff) Premier’s Department and Cabinet 1979-80
Director/Deputy –Director General South Pacific Commission 1980-86
Secretary Prime Minister’s Department 1989-92
Secretary Ministry of Culture 1993-96
Director (now Director-General) South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme 1997-2002
Secretary Ministry of Internal Affairs 2007-2009
CEO Cook Islands Investment Corp. 2011-present
Qualifications: Master of Business Administration, University of the South Pacific
John Herrmann trained as a teacher at Wellington Teachers Training College. Following teaching posts in New Zealand, Australia and back in the Cook Islands, John completed a Bachelor of Arts from the University of the South Pacific (USP) graduating in 1980.
In 1982, John was appointed the USP Centre Director for the Cook Islands Campus, where he worked for over 20 years. John received an Australian Government scholarship in 1989 to do a Master of Arts degree in International Relations at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. John was offered the position as Secretary of Education from 2006-2009.
John has always been a strong believer in promoting the Cook Is. Maori language and this was a major emphasis for him during his time as Secretary. “Any address that I gave was always in Maori” John said. This surprised people, but John believed that the Ministry of Education needed to be seen to be leading the way in using our language.
John thinks that his experience in teaching in a range of contexts gave him the grounding to take on the leadership roles at USP and in the Public Service. He also believes though that Cook Islanders sometimes need to be encouraged to take on these roles. “To promote confidence in our own people, we need to believe in them” John said.
For those considering a career in the Public Service, John also thinks that you need to be proactive and step forward, particularly if you are a Cook Islander living overseas. This benefits the Government ministries as identifying suitable people for positions, like teachers, is sometimes an issue.
Position Ministry/Organisation Date
Secretary Ministry of Education 2006-09
Qualifications: Master of Arts, Australian National University; Bachelor of Arts, University of the South Pacific; Diploma of Teaching, Wellington teachers Training College
Present Position: Retired
Ngatokorua Mataio (Nga) first joined the Ministry of Agriculture as a trainee in the Ministry’s Planning Division in March 1977. After three years, Nga received a scholarship in 1982 to the University of New England in Australia. He studied Agricultural Economics, graduating in mid-1987. Following another three years back in the Ministry of Agriculture, Nga was offered another scholarship in 1990 to return to the same University to do a Master of Economics degree.
Upon his return in mid-1991 until 1999, Nga continued being employed at the Ministry of Agriculture, assuming the roles of Senior Planning Officer and Director of Planning before finishing up as Secretary from 1995 to1999. Nga then worked at the Prime Minister’s Office for two years before taking on the Secretary of Agriculture position again from 2001 until 2009.
Nga was the Secretary during the years of the Economic Restructuring Programme in the mid 1990s and remembers with sadness having to reduce the staff number of the Ministry by 170 people, both on Rarotonga and the outer islands. “This had a huge impact on the social structure of the community, particularly in the Outer Islands,” Nga said. There have also been some highlights such as the citrus seedling distribution programme which helped rehabilitate the citrus industry by focusing on the local market.
Nga thinks that having an open door policy and enjoying helping people at all levels are personal factors that helped him as a leader. “You have to keep in mind all the time the fact that you are working with human beings and not just fellow workers,” Nga said.
Nga draws from his time on the Head of Ministry’s selection panel for some advice to those wanting to take on leadership roles in the Public Service: “While a good education and work experience are necessary to help you work your way up the ladder, honesty and trustworthiness are equally critical.”
Position Ministry/Organisation Date
Secretary Ministry of Agriculture 1995-99, 2001-09
Qualifications: Bachelor of Agricultural Economics; Master of Economics; University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia
Present Position: General Secretary, Cook Islands Christian Church
Tuingariki Short (Tui), has held many different leadership roles within the Public Service. While he was trained as a teacher, Tui also worked in the Marine, Environmental and Infrastructure sectors. He also served on a wide variety of ad-hoc bodies and agencies from Civil Aviation to Event Organising Committees.
The later was a stint on the organising committee for the Mini South Pacific Games in 1984-85. This was Tui’s greatest challenge as he knew very little about it, but was tasked with getting the infrastructure in place. “We were lucky that we had a great core team because we had to work on a nil budget!” Tui said.
Over his career, Tui had to deal with many issues, but the most memorable was during his time as Secretary of Education. During the mid-1980s, there was pressure from within the South Pacific Forum to develop a Pacific Islands based secondary school curriculum which would link to the University of the South Pacific. Tui felt that the Cook Islands would be better off being aligned to the New Zealand curriculum as that was where most of our people that emigrated ended up working. This lead to the introduction of the Cook Islands School Certificate qualification and eventually, full alignment with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
Tui feels that administration can be a gift which gives a person “the ability to see how to structure a programme from beginning to end”. He thinks that this ability is an important part of being a leader in the Public Service.
Position Ministry/Organisation Date
Secretary Ministry of Education 1979-91
Secretary Ministry of Marine Resources 1992-94
Director Environment Service 1995-96
Secretary Ministry of Works, Energy & Physical Planning 1996-97
Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts, University of Auckland; Diploma in Teaching, Auckland Teachers Training College