Complainants disillusioned as investigation into sex assault allegations against fire association head dropped

1 NEWS can reveal an investigation into allegations of sexual assault, harassment and bullying by the head of the country’s fire association was dropped because it couldn't be guaranteed the complainants would be able to see a full copy of the report.

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The claims were against the organisation’s chief executive, Bill Butzbach. Source: 1 NEWS

Bill Butzbach was facing three separate claims of misconduct, stretching back four years, alleged to have occurred while he was the United Fire Brigades' Association’s director and later the chief executive.

The inquiry was launched three months ago, following a 1 NEWS investigation into historical claims of sexual assault and harassment within Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

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Bill Butzbach, from the United Fire Brigades Association, is now the subject of an independent investigation.

1 NEWS has seen emails between the association and claimants that have gone back and forth since August 2020, which show the claimants did not feel comfortable or protected by the process without the guarantee they’d see the full report added to the terms of reference.

In a statement, the association said it had consulted extensively with the three victims on the draft terms of reference, and that their input was considered.

However, documents shown to 1 NEWS reveal the fire association told complainants it did not consider requests to access the full report valid, therefore they were left out of the final terms of reference — ultimately leading to the investigation’s termination.

Victims advocate Ruth Money said she was utterly disgusted by the way the alleged victims have been treated.

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Head of firefighters' association under investigation over sexual assault, harassment allegations

"They are dragging this out and systemically bullying and re-victimising, so at the end of the day the survivors walk away. We see this time and time again and it is abhorrent that it happens in 2020."

One of the alleged victims said the process had left her disillusioned.

UFBA CEO Bill Butzbach. Source:

"It has taken a huge toll on every aspect of my life for four years to try and get someone to investigate this person. No one will take responsibility."

The association failed to say whether or not Butzbach would resume his role as the organisation’s chief executive, after being stood down once the investigation was launched.

A number of volunteer firefighters are now calling for the entire board to be scrapped and for an investigation into how this situation was handled.