The chief executive of Fire and Emergency New Zealand says good progress is being made to address the organisation's workplace culture, but there's still a long journey ahead.

The Positive Workplace Culture Review, released in January, was commissioned by Rhys Jones to help Fire and Emergency (FENZ) understand how to improve the newly unified organisation.

Led by retired Judge Coral Shaw, the review mentioned "insidious" instances of racism, sexism and threats of violence as examples of the bullying culture that needed to change.

A voluntary confidential survey was completed by 1487 participants as part of the review.


Almost half of the respondents (45 per cent) reported witnessing or experiencing bullying or harassment, and 69 per cent of it was likely to be perpetrated by a colleague senior to the target.

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Shaw made 33 recommendations in her report to help tackle the culture, which included a need to adopt a new set of values, code of behaviour, and removing barriers to reporting bullying and harassment.

At the time, Jones said it was "wide-ranging" and "confronting" and it was clear things needed to change.

A three-year plan was adopted to tackle the issues.

In October, FENZ released its first six-monthly progress report to update on what had been happening in the organisation.

This included developing and launching a set of values, bullying and harassment workshops for leaders and a behaviour and conduct office being established, which would be responsible for education, training and support.

An interim bullying and harassment complaints process has also been established, while a permanent process is being developed.


Jones said the problem with their previous process was that it was in-house.

"One of the issues was about people's mistrust that if I complain to a superior, another superior who knows that person I'm complaining against will deal with it."

"What we've set up is an independent process which is outside the organisation so there can't be any issues of in-house jack-ups or complaints being ignored."

The interim process had dealt with 18 complaints since June 2019. Around half were new issues with the rest historic or ongoing.

Jones said when they launched the review, they wanted to focus on educating people on values, providing support to people and upskill managers so they could create a good environment and react to any issues that came up.

He said they were still in the "early stages" but were on track to achieve their aims of creating a respectful and safe environment for their people.

"This type of thing is always going to take a long time to put in place but we are making good progress and I suppose the real positive thing is that it's a good conversation and a widespread conversation, so I think it's hitting the mark quite well."

New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union secretary Wattie Watson said the work was necessary and needed to happen.

She said the organisation had recognised they were lacking in policy and procedures and they were making progress in those areas.

There were still very much some issues particularly for professional career firefighters, she said.

"Career firefighters have felt undervalued and in particular felt their training and qualifications and breadth of experience isn't always recognised or valued in FENZ."

Jones said it was a "bit unfair" to say they don't value a particular part of the organisation.

"What we do is value the skills that each component brings and what we try to create is respect for everyone... so that we can actually create and work together as one unified organisation."