About Us

Mrs Debbie Sorensen DCCT, CMinstD, NZRPN, MNZIOD

Debbie is a New Zealand born Tongan who trained as a Psychiatric Nurse and led significant projects to change the manner in which Mental health services were delivered in New Zealand. Debbie has pursued a career in the public and private sector characterized by undertaking roles that have been "transformational" requiring strategic leadership, the ability to influence and gain support, the ability to develop and maintain strategic partnerships and the ability to develop innovative and unique solutions to challenges facing Pacific populations in New Zealand and in the Pacific region. All of this has been underpinned by robust general management competencies in finance, human resources, legal and strategic planning processes.

She has led the development of Pacific health services in New Zealand, has established a number of senior executive roles within the health sector and has led the development of the framework for the purchasing of Pacific provider development services, which has become a widespread programme adopted by Public sector agencies in New Zealand focusing on building capacity and capability of Pacific organisations and individuals. Debbie is regarded as an expert in restructuring medium sized organisations who find themselves in crisis and has a strong track record in leading organisations through major change management processes to transform them into high functioning entities.


She has been instrumental in developing the capacity and capability of health systems throughout the Pacific region and plays a key role in mentoring and fostering the development of both executive level Pacific staff in country and Pacific clinicians. Debbie developed the first institutional partnerships between Pacific countries and New Zealand based institutions during her role as General Manager Pacific Health at Counties Manukau District Health Board. This included "twinning" partnerships with Cook Islands, Tonga and Samoa.

Debbie has a depth of experience in working with international agencies including the World Bank, SPC, AusAID, NZAID and WHO. Debbie currently acts as an advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Health Tonga, the Minister of Health Fiji and previously the Prime Minister Cook Islands and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health in Nauru. Her most recent experience is as an advisor and member of the delegation to the Minister of Health Tonga to the Commonwealth Ministers of Health meeting and the World Health Assembly 2015 and 2016 in Geneva. In 2015 she was invested as a Dame Commander Royal Crown of Tonga by His Majesty King Tupou VI for her services to Health for the people of Tonga. She has worked in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Debbie brings a wealth of experience to any international development role. She has extensive experience in working with partners and doors to develop strategy, she has excellent financial skills, is experienced in fundraising and marketing, has strongly developed monitoring and evaluation experience and is able to reflect on her roles as a Chief Executive to provide monitoring and support to CEOs. She is able to provide a real world perspective to development programs with her strong community networks, ability to leverage professional relationships and experience across the Pacific region. Her experience at a senior level in Government allows her to share her knowledge and understanding of the process of government to assist boards to strengthen their relationships with Government agencies and to maximise opportunities that may arise through those relationships. She welcomes robust debate in the boardroom and works best within a team based approach that respects that diverse skills and experiences the collective board brings to the table.

Debbie currently holds three roles:

Chief Executive, Pasifika Futures Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. This organisation works to improve health, education and social service outcomes for Pacific families in New Zealand. It holds a Commissioning Budget of $50m over 3 years and is the single largest Government funded Pacific organisation in New Zealand.

Chief Executive, Pasifika Medical Association. She has developed the organisation into the largest provider of Pacific Health Workforce programmes in New Zealand and the region. This role also includes providing support to the Ministry of Health to recruit, train and select volunteers to respond to disasters in New Zealand and the Pacific region.

Managing Director, Health Specialists Ltd. Specializing in providing tertiary clinical services support and leadership development and delivering the New Zealand Medical Treatment Scheme to 5 countries in the region. She is also is a trainer for the New Zealand Fire Service Urban Search and Rescue Teams and the New Zealand Medical Assistance teams.