08 December 2022

A Public Service Commission review has found Fire and Emergency New Zealand has fallen short in its attempts to improve workplace culture.

The independent review, led by Belinda Clark QSO, focused on assessing Fire and Emergency New Zealand’s (Fire and Emergency) workplace culture and its handling of complaints of bullying and harassment.

The review(PDF, 1.1 MB) found:

  • Fire and Emergency did a lot of work to address the 2019 Shaw Report recommendations, but still has some way to go to achieve lasting culture change
  • Poor behaviours remain and need to be addressed urgently.
  • The Behaviour and Conduct Office, set up to respond to complaints and improve workplace behaviour, fell short of its goals
  • Fire and Emergency has some way to go to achieve lasting culture change.
  • Changing the culture must be part of the core work of all leaders at Fire and Emergency
  • Stronger leadership is needed at all levels.

Deputy Public Service Commissioner Helene Quilter QSO said Fire and Emergency’s programme of work had failed to achieve its desired outcomes due to incomplete implementation, and because the programme was implemented as a discreet project rather than integrated into the organisation’s everyday business.

Ms Quilter said the review identified significant problems with the Behaviour and Conduct Office including its remit, timeliness, communication, clarity of process and, importantly, the trust of complainants.

“It is evident that much more work needs to be done to ensure Fire and Emergency is a safe and inclusive workplace for all personnel,” said Ms Quilter.

The report recommends:

  • The Fire and Emergency Executive Leadership Team design and implement a clear culture change plan and a way to measure success.
  • Establishing an independent Advisory Committee to support Fire and Emergency to achieve cultural change, for at least a three-year period.
  • Introducing one stand-alone Code of Conduct that applies to all Fire and Emergency personnel.
  • Implementing a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy to bullying and harassment, incorporating:
    • investigating all formal complaints of bullying or harassment
    • the dismissal of personnel found by an investigation to have committed bullying or harassment
    • Referral of allegations of criminal offending to New Zealand Police.
  • Moving the investigation and determination of conduct complaints against Fire and Emergency personnel to a new body, external to Fire and Emergency, for a period of at least five years.
  • Protecting the wellbeing and safety of complainants while their complaints are being investigated.
  • Fire and Emergency’s workforce composition reflect the make-up and diversity of the general population.
  • Modernising the role of the Chief Fire Officer. All new Chief Fire Officer appointments should be for a term of five years, with rights of renewal.
  • Choosing and promoting leaders based on their people management skills and prioritising training to deal with poor behaviour.

“Addressing the findings and recommendations of this review requires a whole of organisation, end-to-end cultural change,” said Ms Quilter.

“This is not about updating policies and processes ­ it is about changing attitudes and behaviour.

This review was necessary. Fire and Emergency now has a clear road map to build a positive and safe workplace culture for the future.”

Media queries: Grahame Armstrong 021 940 457 or grahame.armstrong@publicservice.govt.nz

Independent review of FENZ's workplace culture and complaints handling practices Final report Nov 2022(PDF, 1.1 MB)