FENZ failing to fix judge’s findings

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) is at breaking point after years of mismanagement, poor spending decisions and a problematic culture, National’s Fire and Emergency spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“It is appalling that firefighters risk their lives every day but feel unsupported and unheard by their workplace.

"Despite a revenue bump that is 40 per cent higher than predicted for the 2021/22 financial year after the 2017 merger, the organisation is still unable to address pay concerns, improve working conditions, manage frontline workloads or even invest in the right equipment.

"FENZ’s frivolous spending has extended to $423,000 on fire hoses that have since been banned after months of concerns that they were failing and putting $10m into a rebranding project with little to show except bucket hats and soft-shell jackets.

"Poor resourcing decisions are highlighted by back-office staff numbers blowing out by 202.8 employees between 2017-21, while just 47.7 operational staff were added to the frontline over the same period.

"Workplace culture has been a concern since 2018 after Judge Coral Shaw’s independent review of FENZ flagged a culture of bullying and harassment, sexism, racism and homophobia. Addressing this should have been a top priority, yet reports from firefighters indicate little progress.

“An OIA recently obtained by National revealed the organisation doesn’t keep a record of compensation and settlement payments made to complainants who allege bullying, harassment or sexual harassment against a firefighter. Additionally, in 2020 it was found that FENZ did not hold records for suicides among paid staff and volunteers.|

"FENZ has continued to show it does not take issues seriously, which has ultimately resulted in strike action from the New Zealand Professional Firefighters' Union.

“National is following the situation closely and welcomes the review by Belinda Clark QSO, which will assess what changes have been made since Judge Shaw’s findings.”