Exclusive: Independent investigation into High Performance Sport NZ, Cycling NZ already under fire

Ten days ago, a high-level investigation was launched into High Performance Sport and Cycling New Zealand to examine an alleged culture of bullying and inappropriate behaviour.

1 NEWS can reveal a HPSNZ employee has contacted someone someone who asked to be part of the investigation whose involvement was meant to be confidential. Source: 1 NEWS

HPSNZ chief executive Michael Scott said when the review was announced they would have nothing to do it.

"I guess the separation of the review process from HPSNZ gives it independence and credibility," he said.

But 1 NEWS has found out that separation has already been breached.

1 NEWS can reveal a HPSNZ employee, who has worked in the cycling programme for years, has contacted someone whose involvement in the process was meant to be confidential.

When the investigation was launched, anyone interested in taking part was invited to get in touch via email.

HPSNZ promised people would be contacted directly by the investigator - and that the email was confidential.

Andrew Scott Howman, a lawyer who specialises in workplace investigations, says the interaction raises issues about the integrity of the process.

"It's really important that interviewees, in other words witnesses, don't talk to anyone but the investigator for the period of that process and the reason is that as the investigator, you want to meet those people fresh, as it were."

He says speaking out in a situation like this already isn't easy.

"You're always going to feel a bit uncomfortable but it's where the integrity of the process is breached - that's a different thing, That goes beyond your comfort level - that's just not fair.

"You just don't expect that nor should you."

The investigation was launched to review allegations about former sprint coach Anthony Peden's behaviour and examine why more wasn't done.

However, it will also look at a HPSNZ Rio Olympics debrief and how confidential documents were leaked and then obtained by 1 NEWS.

The employee speaking with witnesses isn't just a personal assistant chasing up appointments - they're incredibly close to the issues under investigation.

1 NEWS tried speaking with the independent investigator Michael Heron QC today but he didn't return calls.

HPSNZ says they were asked to help set up interviews with athletes and staff whose involvement was mandatory but the person 1 NEWS spoke with doesn't fall into either of those categories.

They maintain the independence of the review hasn't been impacted.