Creative NZ chief censured after staff 'stranded' during Auckland flooding

Report finds senior leadership team failed to uphold organisation's values

Creative NZ chief censured after staff 'stranded' during Auckland flooding

The chief executive of Creative NZ (CNZ) has been censured after employees were left stranded at Auckland Airport during the anniversary weekend flooding, according to reports.

Radio New Zealand reported on Monday that The Arts Council, CNZ's governing body, issued a formal written censure to chief executive Stephen Wainwright following the incident.

"That marks that this happened, that marks not just the disapproval but the disappointment of the council at the way this event was managed or not managed, and it clearly outlines what our expectations are," the censure said as quoted by RNZ.

Auckland anniversary flooding

The censure follows the Auckland anniversary flooding that saw some employees stranded from Friday evening until Sunday.

An independent review carried out by lawyer Susan Hornsby-Geluk commenced in the aftermath of the incident, where a total of 28 staff and managers were at the airport on January 27 when flights were cancelled due to the weather.

Some members of the senior leadership team (SLT) were able to find taxis, while some were left behind at the airport.

According to Hornsby-Geluk's report, which was obtained by RNZ, the actions of SLT members created "tension and division" and failed to uphold the organisation's values.

"Respect for employees was not demonstrated by all SLT members during the events at the airport and in the aftermath, creating a divide between SLT and staff," the report said as quoted by RNZ.

"Instead, some SLT members acted in a hierarchical way, showing a lack of care and respect for employees."

According to the employees who participated in the review, better engagement and communication as well as demonstration of empathy from senior leaders were needed.

Meanwhile, the report also found gaps in the organisation's crisis and emergency response, as well as on its wellbeing policies and practices.

Acceptance from leadership

Wainwright and members of the SLT accepted the findings of the report, and expressed disappointment that their actions did not reflect the CNZ's values.

The Art Council said the SLT is now carrying out measures to re-build the trust and confidence of staff and ensure that the organisation's values are upheld. Work is also underway to update the organisation's crisis and emergency plan, according to the RNZ report.

Hornsby-Geluk's report recognised the efforts from the SLT following the review on the incident.

"The level of self-reflection and acknowledgement by SLT members that the situation was not managed well, and that they needed to win back the trust and confidence of employees, was encouraging and provides optimism that there will be tangible learnings from this incident," the review said.

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