The State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie, today announced that Helene Quilter has been appointed Chief Executive and Secretary of Defence.  

Ms Quilter has over 35 years’ experience in the Public Service including the last five years as a Deputy Commissioner at the State Services Commission (SSC) and six years at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).  She has served as the Acting State Services Commissioner during her time at SSC.

As Deputy Commissioner, she provides leadership to chief executives to improve agency performance and is responsible for managing the performance of chief executives in the justice, defence, intelligence and foreign affairs agencies on behalf of the State Services Commissioner.

Helene Quilter was part of the Central Agency team responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Defence White Paper and worked with the justice sector agencies on the development and implementation of the Better Public Services Justice Sector Results Action Plan.  

The Chief Executive and Secretary of Defence leads a department of approximately 70 staff based in Wellington. The Secretary of Defence is the principal provider of civilian advice to the Government on defence matters in consultation with the Chief of Defence and, where appropriate, with the chief executives of other agencies in the security sector.  

“Helene Quilter’s long experience across the Public Service gives me confidence that she will successfully build on the current Secretary’s work to strengthen the future policy capability of the Ministry of Defence and provide assurances that defence acquisitions are managed in a highly effective manner,” Mr Rennie said.  

Ms Quilter’s term will run until 31 July 2017, and will begin on 1 December 2012 when current Secretary of Defence, Mr John McKinnon, begins his appointment as Executive Director of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The State Services Commission will advertise for a replacement Deputy Commissioner in the near future.  


Media enquiries:  Lisa-Marie Richan, Director, Communications 021 244 1361



Helene Quilter has 34 years’ experience in the Public Service, the last 11 of which have been as a Deputy Chief Executive at the Ministry of Social Development and Deputy Commissioner at the State Services Commission.

Since joining the State Services Commission in July 2007, she has successfully managed on behalf of the State Services Commissioner the performance and relationships with numerous chief executives in complex and sometimes difficult circumstances. 

During this time she has undertaken a number of high-profile investigations on behalf of the State Services Commissioner and she has served as Acting State Services Commissioner.  

She has extensive experience in leading reviews, mergers and restructurings, as well as leading and successfully managing change, in large, complex service delivery organisations.

An avid support of the Arts, Ms Quilter has a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies (Distinction) from Victoria University.  She is a graduate of the Senior Executive Programme, London Business School and the Darden University Leadership Programme.  

She also serves as a Public Sector Trustee on the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Trust and is a mentor for the New Zealand Institute of Management.

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