Employees at government agency Housing New Zealand say concerns they raised when a colleague died in a suspected suicide after reporting workplace bullying have been brushed off.

Despite the organisation completing a staff survey and a series of "culture and leadership" workshops, they say findings were never reported back, even after repeated questioning.

Little had changed, other than an update to Housing New Zealand's "values", staff said. A confidential 0508 number where employees could report workplace behaviour was not set up until after the Weekend Herald first ran a story about the man's death, they said.

The number was announced in an all-staff email naming the deceased man - which the Herald did not do - and saying the article was inaccurate and incomplete.


Complaints about the lack of action come as the man's family speak out, saying they simply want Housing New Zealand to be transparent, and it need not fear litigation.

"All we want is to find out what happened and to ensure nothing like this ever happens again," the man's brother said. "My fear is that someone else will start to suffer. We want to change something."

He said the family also wanted to know if adequate mental health support had been in place, as it did not seem enough had been done to help the man.

"If one of my colleagues had exhibited the symptoms he had physically and mentally I would have moved heaven and hell to make sure there were supports," the brother said. "It was obvious he was extremely unwell."

Housing New Zealand has refuted the claims that it did not report back on the findings of its workshops and its survey of 700 people, completed after the man's death in July last year.

"Following the death … Housing New Zealand put a very specific focus on a health and wellbeing check," chief executive Andrew McKenzie said. That included reminders about existing resources such as counselling, linking to an internal Wellness Portal, as well as the recent 0508 number.

"Any claim that wellbeing measures were not fed back to Housing New Zealand people is wrong," McKenzie said.

However, it would not release email communications to staff or any documentation from the survey process to the Weekend Herald, and did not answer specific questions on timings about the phone line.


Workers who came forward to the Herald - in total 13 current and former employees - said they were at first encouraged when the workshops were announced, but quickly grew frustrated.

"We were interviewed in October, and disclosed the degree of bullying and humiliation we have experienced … and have had no response," one employee said. "It's so extremely disappointing and I don't believe these managers have any understanding of the terrible effects their bullying has."

Others said there had been a push for change in the business, but with little acknowledgement of staff workload and the need for safe ways to raise concerns.

"Most of us agree [the workshops] were an attempt to be seen as being proactive and open to change, however the behaviour of the senior team has changed very little since," one said.

"Staff members are often placed under unacceptable pressure. Most are afraid to complain or discuss with their manager given the potential backlash and repercussions. Expectation is to fall in line, smile and carry on."

Earlier, the Herald reported the man died 10 days after complaining to management he was the victim of sustained, unresolved workplace bullying.

The death was not reported to health and safety authorities until the coroner began an inquiry. WorkSafe did not investigate, saying it did not consider the death to be "notifiable".

The Herald has also reported previously on others saying they were also bullying victims, and that there were at least two recent pay-outs involving bullying allegations, and accompanying gagging orders

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

Housing New Zealand did not want to comment further, saying its response had been "thorough", and it was confident in the quality of its people and its workplace environment.

The coroner continues to investigate the death.

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)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.