Fire and Emergency praised for response to bullying review

The Mental Health Foundation is commending Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) for acknowledging it has a bullying problem and being prepared to deal with it.

An independent review commissioned in 2018 identified a serious issue with bullying and harassment at FENZ.

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.

Shaun Robinson from the Mental Health Foundation says it's not a surprise.

"While the stories that are in the report are particularly alarming, this is a nationwide issue."

FENZ said it will be working to eliminate bullying and harassment in the organisation over the next three years. It plans to implement a code of behaviours and values organisation-wide.

Mr Robinson says many organisations are looking at a ways to bring about positive change, but there needs to be higher level conversations too.

"We need legal change and process change that's led by Government as well to support this, but I think the momentum is building to do something really positive."

He did caution workplaces against simply taking the legal route though, warning that could have adverse effects on the victim.

"Workplaces often have a real risk aversion approach, a denial approach, to dealing with bullying, which leads to legal actions, which can simply re-victimise people."

Some respondents in the review were not sure whether FENZ would be able to tackle its bullying culture.

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


Contact Newshub with your story tips: