26 September 2023

NEW ZEALAND: New standards for dealing with tragedy

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The families of men killed in New Zealand’s 2010 Pike River Mine explosion have supported new standards for the Public Service, saying they will ensure no families have to go through what they did.

The Working with Survivors standards lay out the expectations for Ministries and Agencies in their interactions with survivors of large-scale catastrophic events.

The Standards were co-authored by the Public Service Commission and Pike River families, in consultation with family members and survivors of other major New Zealand tragedies.

Anna Osborne, whose husband, Milton died in the mine, said that when the explosion happened, neither families nor Government Agencies were prepared on what to do.

“They went around like they had their heads chopped off,” Ms Osborne said.

“There wasn’t really anything set up for a tragedy of this magnitude in New Zealand,” she said.

“This standard we’ve created will be going to all the Agencies that need to be told about it, and they will all hopefully be singing off the same song-sheet after that, so should another tragedy happen in New Zealand they are well-prepared to handle it.”

In a separate development, a new report shows that the churn in Wellington’s Public Service jumped by more than 14 per cent last year, driven in part by wage freezes that have seen Public Servants moving jobs or into contractor roles to get pay rises.

As with other residents in the capital region, Government workers have also been grappling with rising inflation that has caused a cost-of-living crisis, and some of the highest house prices rises in the country.

Announcing the figures, the Public Service Commission said turnover had continued at the same pace same pace, 14.2 per cent, in the first half of this year.

It said if this continued in the second half, the turnover would amount to the largest single annual increase since reporting began in 2000.

However, Minister for the Public Service, Chris Hipkins​ said he wasn’t particularly alarmed, as the turnover showed the State sector wasn’t immune to wider labour market trends and a record-low unemployment rate of 3.3 per cent.

“We’re not alone here in the Public Service,” Mr Hipkins said, pointing to “relatively high turnover rates” among big businesses across the economy.

Wellington 4 September 2022

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