Firefighters say Fire and Emergency NZ has failed to fix culture of bullying, sexual misconduct and sloppy investigations despite review

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Other FENZ employees Newshub spoke to echoed that sentiment.

A firefighter, Sarah, complained to the Department of Home Affairs (DIA), the Civil Service Commissioner (PSC) and the Minister of Home Affairs after FENZ and its board mishandled his investigation into his allegations sexual assault, harassment and intimidation by a senior colleague.

Sarah filed her original complaint against the colleague in October 2016, but is still seeking answers more than five years later. She tells Newshub that her advocacy for justice is like a full-time unpaid job.

Sarah says that although both the DIA and the PSC engaged in some sort of process, the processes were murky and did not allow her to present her case and the evidence.

Another FENZ staff member, Fleur*, came forward with a sexual misconduct allegation against a colleague more than two years ago.

But when she told her officer what she had been through, she was immediately furloughed from her brigade – a move firefighters told Newshub is a common tactic employed by FENZ.

Fleur has not been able to leave since. As with Bridget, the process has dragged on – and despite the launch of an independent investigation and the filing of a formal complaint, there is still no resolution in sight.

“It’s been exhausting,” she said.

“[My complaint is] still writing transcripts and reports etc. So it’s just been pretty tiring, I guess, because I feel like I’ve had to fight every turn for fairness rather than delivering it, unfortunately.”

Fleur was a firefighter for more than a decade and says that during that time she experienced and witnessed misconduct “in all walks of life,” but particularly in the area of ​​sexual assault and harassment.

She believes FENZ is reluctant to take strong action on misconduct because so many staff would be involved that it would create too much disruption.

“I kind of understand that, but unfortunately it’s becoming a bigger and bigger task for them. [to not take strong action over complaints]. And I hope for us it just becomes unsustainable. They managed to do it for a long time, but people are tired of it now.”

Fleur says that until March 2020, when the BCO was introduced, it “basically wasn’t possible” to file a complaint because any allegations would be passed directly to those responsible for the behavior in the first place.

Fleur and other plaintiffs were initially optimistic about the BCO, but since its inception it has proven “more interested in smoothing the public image than achieving a solution for victims,” ​​she says.

“You just feel very silenced and not very supported.”

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