Colleagues of a government employee who died in a suspected suicide after reporting bullying say they were also victims of a toxic workplace culture.

The Weekend Herald understands the Public Service Association has acted in numerous cases for workers at Housing New Zealand who complained of bullying and harassment.

At least two employees left after taking personal grievance cases, one which involved an external review by lawyers.

The Weekend Herald reported last week on the death of a Housing New Zealand staff member who died ten days after complaining to management he was the victim of sustained, unresolved workplace bullying.


The death was not reported to health and safety authorities for six months despite regulations requiring agencies to report any death "arising out of the conduct of a business" to WorkSafe immediately.

When WorkSafe was told, it was only after a coroner began an inquiry. WorkSafe did not investigate, saying it did not consider the death to be "notifiable".

Previously, five concerned colleagues, who claimed the man was so stressed he was pulling out his hair, said they feared the death would be "swept under the carpet".

Since the story was published, ten more current and former Housing New Zealand employees have claimed they were also victims of bullying.

Some former staff members said they never formalised their complaints, instead choosing to leave before reaching breaking point.

One woman said she quit just three weeks before the man at the centre of the Weekend Herald's story died, leaving lingering feelings of guilt.

"I know I'm not accountable for his death but I just keep thinking about it," she said. "I keep thinking if I'd made a bigger deal out of what happened to might have made a bit of difference."

Another woman said she was told when she left that Housing New Zealand were going to make changes.


"I'm so angry that it seems like nothing has changed," she said. " I was treated the same way as this gentleman."

The Public Service Association said there were significant problems with the culture at Housing New Zealand and it had held concerns for some time.

Meanwhile, health and safety advocate CultureSafe NZ is calling for an urgent investigation by Worksafe NZ into the suspected suicide.

Director Allan Halse said he personally reported the issue to Worksafe NZ on 28 November 2017, but no action was taken.

In a statement, Housing New Zealand chief executive Andrew McKenzie said the agency was limited in what it could say because the matter was before a coroner.

He said that after last year's tragedy, managers looked at what else the enterprise could do to make staff feel supported and cope with workplace stresses beyond its existing measures which included counselling and "well-being" programmes.

McKenzie said that as with any large organisation, employment-related issues were raised from time to time. Formal allegations of poor workplace behaviour were investigated thoroughly, he said.

He also pointed out that staff turnover at 7.8 per cent was "extremely low" relative to sector and industry benchmarks.

Where to get help:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.