Fire and Emergency NZ boss declines to front after 1 NEWS reveals sexual assault investigation failure

Rhys Jones, the chief executive of Fire and Emergency New Zealand, has repeatedly refused to be interviewed on camera by 1 NEWS.

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The development follows 1 NEWS exclusively revealing how allegations of sexual misconduct haven’t been investigated. Source: 1 NEWS

It's been 48 hours since allegations Fire and Emergency NZ failed to investigate complaints of rape and assault within the organisation were first reported by 1 NEWS.

Mr Jones appeared on RNZ's Nine to Noon program yesterday, the day after 1 NEWS revealed allegations of workplace sexual misconduct and rape by a group of former volunteer firefighters.

Mr Jones then continued to decline multiple interview requests, but in a statement commended the courage of those who came forward to 1 NEWS with reports of 'unacceptable' behaviour.

The minister in charge, Tracey Martin, was surprised to hear Mr Jones hadn't fronted but said she has yet to speak with him directly.

When asked for her response to sexual misconduct allegations failing to be investigated years after the complaints were made, the minister said cases like those should never be dealt with internally.

"[They] should go immediately to the police. Going to any internal complaints process, for that level of allegation, just doesn't work." 

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Mr Jones confirmed a new, independent unit will be set up to handle complaints of sexual misconduct and disputes within the fire service.

In a statement, he said it'll develop a framework to enable fair resolution of complaints, and ensure all complaints are dealt with on the basis of independence, accessibility, fairness, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand has refused to confirm how much the independent unit will cost or when it will be up and running.

The contract is currently out for tender, set to close in three weeks time.