Published: 17 August 2021

Deputy Public Service Commissioner Helene Quilter QSO has today announced the appointment of David Gawn MBE as Chief Executive, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

NEMA is the Government’s lead agency for emergency management. It provides national leadership to Aotearoa New Zealand’s distributed emergency management system.

“I’m very pleased to appoint Mr Gawn to this role,” Ms Quilter said.

“Mr Gawn is a highly respected leader with extensive experience in managing and leading organisations and mitigating risk, including operating in hazardous environments.

“His judgment and decision-making within complex settings are hallmarks of his leadership and he has delivered priorities internationally and in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Mr Gawn is currently the Chief Executive of the Pike River Recovery Agency, a role he has held since 31 January 2018. Prior to this, Mr Gawn was the Head of Mission and Chief of Staff at the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation. Before that, Mr Gawn was Chief of Army in the New Zealand Defence Force.

Ms Quilter said previous roles have given Mr Gawn exposure to the emergency management system.

“Mr Gawn understands the challenges, vulnerabilities and opportunities in emergency management,” Ms Quilter said.

“He is optimistic about the strategic leadership role NEMA can take in Aotearoa New Zealand’s emergency management system.”

Mr Gawn has been appointed for five years from 1 September 2021.

Michelle Wessing has been appointed Acting Chief Executive of Pike River Recovery Agency.




Media queries: Grahame Armstrong: 021 940 457. 



Mr Gawn was appointed Chief Executive, Pike River Recovery Agency in 2018.

From 2015-2017 he was the Head of Mission and Chief of Staff at the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation.

He was Chief of New Zealand Army between 2013 and 2015, Commander Joint Forces New Zealand 2011-2013, Land Commander New Zealand Army 2009-2013, Commander 3rd Land Force Group 2008-2010 and Chief Staff Officer – Operations, Joint Forces New Zealand 2004–2006.

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