Exclusive: Auckland Rescue Helicopters head resigns amid allegations of bullying, toxic workplace

The head of Auckland Rescue Helicopters has resigned amid allegations of bullying and a highly toxic working environment which, workers say, has put them, and the public at risk.

A group of pilots, crew and intensive care paramedics told Newshub they're at breaking point, having suffered five years of intimidation and bullying.

Dawn Handforth, general manager of the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association, said the toxic environment the staff are having to operate in, is unacceptable.

"They're out there day in day out in difficult circumstances keeping everybody safe, and to actually have a situation where they, themselves, are faced with this awful culture of bullying that puts their health and wellbeing at risk, is just not acceptable," she said.

A 24 page document obtained by Newshub details a "highly toxic workplace culture" and "oppressive leadership" by CEO Greg Barrow.

The allegations are currently under investigation, but include various incidents of intimidation and verbal abuse - at times right before emergency call outs.

"You're a f***ing c**t", "I'm going to f***ing come after you", "I've got your balls in a vice", and "If you want to get in a pissing contest with me, I will always win. I've got a bigger stick and I will always win," are just some examples of the alleged abuse by Mr Barrow.

There are also allegations of racism, with one staff member referring to the day a Polynesian baby was found dead and Mr Barrow allegedly saying "it was not surprising seeing as they are useless parents".

Another claimed Mr Barrow said he wouldn't fly with an Asian airplane carrier because "anyone with slanty eyes... can't fly".

In November 2016, Helicopter crew members responded to the Kaipara Harbour boating tragedy that involved recovering eight bodies and winching two fishermen to safety.

After the recovery, the CEO allegedly "yelled at and belittled staff" in a way that was "more traumatic than the disaster itself!", according to the document.

"I've been representing pilots and air traffic controllers for 18 years, and I have to say this is, by far, the worst case of intimidation and bullying that I've ever experienced," said Ms Handforth.

"I'm aware of some operational crew, at this stage not pilots, but operational crew who have taken sick leave because they feel they're not safe to continue in their role."

Newshub was unable to get hold of Greg Barrow, and the Trust board chair Murray Bolton refused to comment. But just hours after the chair was contacted by Newshub, a letter was sent to staff, thanking Mr Barrow for his significant contribution, and announcing he will step down as CEO, as of Monday.

"Why has this been allowed to occur, why has it taken so long to come to a head, this has been going on for five years." said Ms Handforth.