Calls for WorkSafe to investigate Lyttelton Port Company after employee's suicide

Lyttelton Port Company (LPC) is launching an independent investigation into its culture after a worker took her own life.

It comes after Newshub exposed claims by employees that bullying is 'rife' within the company.

Now a top health and safety barrister is calling on WorkSafe to investigate the suicide.

Kassandra Hey has been on a desperate search for answers through clues left behind by her mother Katrina Hey, who took her own life on Christmas Day last year.

Kassandra says her mum was bullied working at the Lyttelton Port Company, and it had a detrimental effect on her mental health.

"It's ruined my life forever," Kassandra says.

"I'm not saying we're all innocent, we've all done things whether they're intentional or not, but it's time to really look at ourselves and make a change."

Handwritten accounts and internal emails kept by her 49-year-old mum paint a bleak picture of what she faced over her seven-year employment.

"Her personality kind of deteriorated if I'm honest," Kassandra says.

Katrina Hey.
Katrina Hey. Photo credit: Supplied

In 2013, Katrina lodged a formal complaint about bullying at work.

"I feel sick at the thought of going into work and not knowing if I am going to be accused of doing something wrong," she said.

"I don't want to be bullied or feel too scared to ask a question."

The complaint was dismissed, but the family claim the bullying continued and Katrina started keeping records.

"No one would listen, no one would take seriously. No one cared," Kassandra says.

"You can clearly see from the evidence something's terribly going wrong here. No one's listening, this is bullying."

In November last year, Katrina made an attempt to take her own life just days after an incident at work.

"It really, really destroyed me being in ICU and seeing my mother like that and waking up and having a breathing tube in her mouth, and the first thing she writes is 'work?' It broke me," Kassandra told Newshub.

Just a few weeks later she died after a second attempt.

Katrina Hey.
Katrina Hey. Photo credit: Supplied

Since Newshub first published the family's concerns online, 14 workers have come forward with harrowing claims.

A former senior manager said he quit after being diagnosed with depression. One worker said "it's like I am nothing" and it was "every man for himself".

Another said "bullying is rife".

One claimed to have been physically assaulted. And a union rep said they were aware of 10 bullying complaints in the last four years alone.

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A colleague who worked with Katrina told Newshub that Katrina was great at her job, but was underappreciated, "treated poorly" and collected evidence to back herself.

Katrina's death, and the allegations raised by her family, have forced the port to review its culture.

CEO Roger Gray told Newshub since he took the job in February it has become very clear there "are culture issues" at LPC.

He says a "complete transformation" is needed.

Katrina Hey and the Lyttelton Port Company.
Katrina Hey and the Lyttelton Port Company. Photo credit: Image - Supplied + File

Health and safety barrister Samuel Moore is now calling on WorkSafe to investigate LPC under its psychosocial harm guidelines.

"If we've got an example of a very serious outcome, the most serious, we've got numerous allegations from numerous sources, the allegations are particularly serious and they do relate to behaviours at work, I would be surprised if WorkSafe didn't investigate. I think they should," he told Newshub.

Former WorkSafe prosecutor DeAnne Brabant agrees.

"It is not okay for people to go to work, and be harmed because of the job they do in any way shape or form."

WorkSafe told Newshub it should be notified if a fatality arises from work - and was not notified of Katrina's suicide.

Lyttleton Port says it will be conducting a second independent inquiry into the allegations raised by Katrina's family.

"I'm going to fix this for all of the other Katrina's out there," Kassandra says.

A family determined no others should have to go through the pain they've had to endure.

Where to find help and support: 

  • Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
  • Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584