A former Lyttelton Port Company employee says the independent review into the business' culture is "urgent and necessary", but is concerned the allocated time period will not allow a number of serious incidents outside the narrow scope to be included.
The ex-worker is supported by the family of Katrina Hey - who took her own life in December 2019 after seven years at the port - who say a specific time period of just three-and-a-half years is "not fair".
The port appointed senior barrister Maria Dew QC to conduct an independent inquiry into the culture following allegations published by Newshub relating to bullying, racial and sexual discrimination, harassment, and unfair selection of family members for roles.
The review is open to any current and former staff or contractors of LPC who wish to come forward with relevant information to assist the review, but the period covered will only include incidents experienced by workers at the company from January 2017 - June 2020.
Lyttelton was proclaimed a port in 1849, and wharf construction began then, but the Harbour Board wasn't formed until 1877. The Harbour Board continued up until the Port Companies Act created the current Lyttelton Port Company in 1988.
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A former employee, who left the company due to stress and who Newshub has agreed not to identify, said they think the allocated timeframe - that accounts for roughly 10 percent of the port's operations - is another tactic to avoid the full extent of mistreatment claims being exposed.
"These allegations are not new but the port has been able to hide behind confidential settlements and also workers' fear of being ostracised," they said. "I am dubious about what Maria Dew will investigate, due to the timeframe of the investigation.
"I feel that a longer timeframe would capture more cases and more confidential settlements, and it has been reported that Katrina Hey's allegations started in 2013 so maybe that would be a good starting point. I think maybe going back 10 years would uncover a lot more cases."
Katrina's daughter, Kassandra Hey, has been on a desperate search for answers through clues left behind by her mother, who took her own life on Christmas Day last year.
Kassandra told Newshub she was disappointed the scope didn't extend to 2013 when her mother made a formal complaint to the company's HR about bullying.
She 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.
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.
In a document sent to the company on Katrina's behalf by her union, she said her confidence was dwindling over her treatment 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.
She says its another blow that the same complaint will be discarded in the same way she feels it was when it was first made.
"It needs to go back further than 2017 for everyone else because there are more employees who will want to lay complaints but this time period excludes them from this investigation if we only use this timeline. It’s not fair.
"I don’t see why they are still going to lengths to protect the two managers that bullied my mum to death."
The mother of another worker allegedly targeted by management told Newshub on Monday they felt let down by the policies in place that have been allowing people to feel unsafe.
"I do believe it is to be addressed as soon as possible… the policies and recommendations the LPC have in place are not working. There needs to be input from a select group of different employees and managers to be able to sit down and talk through this sad state of affairs.
"I hope to see a solution through everyone talking and come up with answers."
She hopes this will give effected parties some closure, and allow for new guidelines for LPC to adhere to so everyone can feel their concerns have been listened to.
General Manager People and Safety Kirstie Gardener told Newshub the timeframe was intended to make the process more orderly.
"The Maria Dew QC Review is into the current workplace culture at LPC. In order to make the process manageable, it was recommended that a time period be defined in the terms of reference.
"If serious incidents are raised, Ms Dew has indicated that they will be referred for formal investigation separately."
In May, a Newshub investigation revealed allegations relating to bullying, racial and sexual discrimination, harassment, and unfair selection of family members for roles.
One LPC worker told Newshub bullying is just the "tip of the iceberg" staffers face, with issues including a lack of support, stressful environments and living in fear of being pushed out.
A period of 14 days will be available for participants to register their wish to be interviewed, from July 24 to August 7.
It led to LPC chief executive Roger Gray announcing the independent investigation.
"Following the potentially serious nature of the issues in the story yesterday, it is clear to me that the process of culture change at LPC will need to be underpinned by a full independent investigation into bullying and harassment.
"I consider the issues raised to be completely unacceptable. We will be bringing in an independent external person to conduct this review and will begin this process as soon as possible.
Earlier he told Newshub since he took the job in February it has become very clear there "are culture issues" at LPC and acknowledged a "complete transformation" is needed.
Former WorkSafe prosecutor DeAnne Brabant says WorkSafe should also investigate LPC under its psychosocial harm guidelines and the claims made regarding Katrina mental health state before her suicide.
"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," Brabant said.
Lyttleton Port says it will be conducting a second independent inquiry into the allegations raised by Katrina's family.
The separate independent investigation looking into her experiences during her time as a container controller at the port is being covered barrister Amy Keir covers back to 2013.
A period of 14 days will be available for participants to register their wish to be interviewed, from July 24 to August 7 in the review into LPC's culture. If you would like to be interviewed, please contact Maria directly via the external confidential email established for the review: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where to find help and support:
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Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
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Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)