Whanaungatanga Programme Wellbeing Survey

The Movember-funded Whanaungatanga Programme Wellbeing Survey will be sent to all professional career firefighters and comms centre dispatchers on Thursday 9 March 2023.

I can hear the collective groan with the announcement of another survey but this one is being conducted independent of FENZ and will be instrumental in collating the necessary evidence to support necessary and targeted health and wellbeing initiatives in the future.   This is a significant opportunity for NZPFU members to record the issues that are impacting on their wellbeing, including response and organisational impacts without fear of retribution or misrepresentation.  

The value of the research will be dependent on the uptake – if you complete one survey this year this is the one to do!

The survey is being conducted independently by the Auckland University of Technology and FENZ is NOT involved in the collection of the survey responses or analysis of the raw data. 

No individual, watch or station data will be shared with FENZ.   FENZ will not be undertaking or controlling the analysis and will not receive the raw data.  There are robust safeguards in place to protect your confidentiality.

  • The Whanaungatanga Programme was developed by a project team of career firefighters and managers in conjunction with AUT in response to suicides and psychological injury amongst their colleagues.  It is one of 15 projects internally funded by Movember to develop evidence-based research into first responder and veteran mental health.  The survey will serve to identify operational and organisational factors contributing to mental ill-health while also evaluating organisational change initiatives to improve wellbeing.  
  • The survey investigates the impacts of exposures to potentially traumatic events and how that exposure relates to wellbeing and will be part of an international cache of research that will benefit first responders internationally.
  • The NZPFU have been involved in reviewing and ensuring there are robust verification, confidentiality, and safety measures built into the survey and programme. This includes a two-step verification process, University ethics review and approval, clinical psychologists review and approval, and ensuring that the data handling and storage is subject to national and international laws. It is fully endorsed by the NZPFU.

Project lead, career firefighter and NZPFU member Josh Darby reiterates that this survey is important as it will not only collect direct information on the impact of exposure to trauma, but also how FENZ as an organisation contributes to stress and therefore how it needs to change.

We know that first responders experience higher rates of psychological injury than the general population. They may also have higher rates of suicide than the general population.  A major contributor to this is the repeated exposure to potentially traumatic events that first responders experience as a part of their work.  Another major contributor is organisational stressors for example poor support, low job control, red tape, long hours, lack of appropriate equipment”.
“Internationally, there is a lack of evidence-based mental ill-health and suicide prevention programmes for veterans and first responders.   The programmes that do exist tend to focus on exposure to potentially traumatic events, self-care, and tertiary interventions (e.g., ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, such as access to EAPs) rather than organisational stressors. This is important as recent research has shown that organisational stressors are associated with first responder psychological injuries even after controlling for their exposure to potentially traumatic events. That is why there is a need for a focus on prevention and early-intervention programmes that identify and address the organisational and occupational stressors that contribute to the risk of psychological injury and suicide for veterans and first responders.”

The NZPFU fire crisis recently highlighted a number of work stressors and the flow on impact to trust and wellbeing in FENZ. Now is your opportunity to have your say on the issues that are impacting you and in doing so contribute to improved outcomes for professional firefighters and comcen operators.

The survey is being sent to all FENZ employees on Thursday 9 March and participants have until 30 March 2023 to complete it.  All NZPFU members will receive an email from which includes the full information about the survey and how to participate.  The link goes back to AUT – not FENZ.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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