Fire and Emergency New Zealand releases 'confronting' bullying and harassment review

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) has released a report into bullying and harassment which they say highlights a need for change in the organisation.

A Positive Workplace Culture Review was commissioned mid-2018. Chief Executive Rhys Jones said at the time it would give direction on how to lead a safe and inclusive workplace.

In 2017 FENZ was established and brought together almost 40 different firefighting organisations around the country into one.

Mr Jones said the report was needed to ensure the different organisations were working under the same principles now that they were joined.

"We do a really good job at protecting communities but we need to put more focus on looking after each other."

He said the report was "wide-ranging and confronting" and he was committed to creating change, however long it might take.

"It may be difficult, but this will make us stronger, and allow us to focus on what we do best."

The report says the review board heard of cases where bullying behaviour had been overlooked, downplayed, or excused because of a person's status.

"The status of these individuals has enabled them to bully and harass with impunity. Some groups are more likely to be targets of bullying and harassment."

The report found "unacceptable levels of racism, sexism and homophobia" within FENZ.

It also recognized that till now there have not been appropriate or proper recognition of the risk of bullying and harassment.

"FENZ should review its current policies for dealing with bullying and harassing... and either replace or amend the policies."

Some participants said they were skeptical that the review would work.

"They are the most trusted force in New Zealand but they have got the biggest skeletons in the closet," said an anonymous contributor.

Mr Jones said change was already underway and "the organisation has committed to taking all necessary steps to build a workplace culture where everyone feels respected and included regardless of their gender, ethnicity, age, orientation and beliefs."

FENZ said they will be working over the next 36 months to eliminate bullying and harassment and implement a code of behaviours and values organisation-wide.