Refining NZ

Nominee/entrant details

Refining NZ

Organisation details

Size: 200-499 staff

Industry: Manufacturing

Organisation background

Refining NZ is New Zealand’s only oil refinery, and one of the countries largest high hazard facilities. It employs 300 staff and provides work for another 100-150 contractors who work together to provide 60% of the countries fuel demand. Over the past 60 years, we have considered health and safety a priority. That value was put to the test in 2020. Not only did our workers have to cope with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes that it bought, but also the impact of a significant reduction in the requirement for transport fuels globally.

Executive summary

The Manaaki team is a volunteer-run programme that is whole-heartedly supported by Refining NZ – from the workfront to the Board of Directors. This team is focussed on supporting everyone through difficult times – whatever those may be - and normalising talk about mental health and wellbeing around the workplace and at home. The volunteers come from all levels and areas of the organisation, and have been trained in mental health wellbeing. They are a helping hand, a listening ear, or a much-needed shoulder in times of need and are dedicated to spreading mental health awareness and techniques around the wider community.

Background on situation and opportunity

Due to reduced fuel demand, the company is undergoing a strategic review which has already resulted in redundancies and may still result in over 80% of the remaining staff losing their jobs. This has had a large impact on people's wellbeing and mental health. The need to support employees and contracting staff through these extended times of uncertainty and change was obvious, and thus the Manaaki team was born. The Manaaki Team are volunteers who undertake extra training to support staff through any change they are going through. They play an active role in promoting wellbeing at work.


To support staff through these times of uncertainty and change our Manaaki team was formed by trained volunteers from all levels and sectors of the business who are willing to be there for their colleagues and their friends. They are encouraged to make mental health and wellbeing a priority and a normal thing to talk about in day-to-day conversations at all levels of the business as well as at home. The concept of a team to support wellbeing fitted well with our E Tu Tangata safety culture programme. The idea and concept was proposed and intitiated by a small group of staff who saw the need, and who applied personal leadership to get the Manaaki team off the ground. Senior site leaders were in full support, but gave full credit to the initiators and volunteer team who grew and implemented the concept. Other volunteers came on board and helped to support the initial effort. The Manaaki team and programme continues to evolve and improve through the ongoing effort and leadership within the team of volunteers. This has proved to be an adaptive and flexible approach, to change and improve the programme according to need. The programme has broad support, from frontline workers, right up to the Board of Directors.


Initially the team was informally populated by volunteers who had influence and mana around the site and who were willing to be trained in Psychological First Aid and to be available for their colleagues. Soon word spread and more volunteers offered to join. This programme was born from a place of mutual respect and caring. The Manaaki Team has been through many training courses such as the Psychological First Aid, Mental Wellness, Uncertainty and Change, Mental Skills Training and Understanding Stress and Resiliency Training. The skills they have learned are being spread about on site through informal and formal interactions. The Manaaki volunteer team now has regular catch-ups together to discuss experiences and development of the programme. There are also a regular feedback and discussion sessions with senior site leadership.

Engagement and communication

The Manaaki Team is an active part of the [email protected] programme. The team is actively promoted through team meetings and site Communications. The team engage with staff to raise the profile of the work and to help whanau understand who in the business is available to talk with them. The wellbeing aspect of the work is driven through different site channels. Our intranet website called HIVE provides information and links, with different aspects being talked about through the weekly cascade email. Information is provided on flyers and lanyards ensuring that everyone (including personal whanau) can access the resources and support. The Manaaki Team is amongst the staff care initiatives regularly promoted to all staff, as well as Line Managers, as the business goes through a difficult period of change. Connections and conversations can then be had in a natural way that allows staff to feel safe and supported. The broad reach of the team means that there is always someone nearby or known to you. There is strong evidence of an increase in wellbeing-based conversations occurring on site, through anonymous feedback via the “Safety Talk” system, and many informal interactions around lunch-tables and shared spaces. Feedback through the “Our Voice” survey has also highlighted the positive contribution that the initiative and people are making.


The Manaaki Team is owned by a group of people committed to wellbeing. By creating a deep vision for what wellbeing means at work and how it can be at the centre of work, they have begun to influence the way the organisation thinks about how it values and supports it people. Senior Leaders seek the counsel of these people about what is happening in the business and ask for advice and backing on initiatives and ideas to support action. The CEO and the leadership team actively meet and korero about what is important to staff and actively support and action the work being championed. The Manaaki programme is self-perpetuating and sustainable as it seeks to permanently change peoples mindset and helps them to share what they have learned with people they care about. Manaaki makes it ok to talk about mental health at work, makes it ok to forgive yourself if you are unable to perform 100% at work. It embodies the Refining NZ “safely home every day” mantra and promotes unity (kotahitanga).


The Manaaki programme is inclusive by its very nature; it was founded on principles directly related to E Tu Tangata and Te Ao Maori perspectives. These were included from day one by our Kaihautu (Leader) Cory Abraham (Ngapuhi) supported by our Kaumatua and community. The Manaaki team is open for everyone to engage with no matter where you’ve come from or where you’re going. Manaaki means “to support, take care of, give hospitality to, protect, look out for - show respect, generosity and care for others” And our team lives this definition every day we’re at work.

Innovation and creativity

The Manaaki team is just one part of a multi-faceted wellbeing campaign that Refining NZ is undertaking. In addition to the trained Manaaki members the company is also promoting the following: - Funded team building events – it is easier to open up to other people if you are closer to them. - Monthly themes based on mental health and physical wellbeing which highlight healthy living strategies. - Customized employee wellness and satisfaction surveys with prizes for teams that have high participation rates. - Employee-led, owned and operated. Innovative and creative as it is completely removed from management oversight/direction. - Innovative by design - Every member of the team brings their own unique skills, knowledge and attributes to the role, and this creates the chance for every member to promote their own different styles/approachs/initiatives in regard to wellbeing, which is encouraged. This creates a large amount of expertise from which our staff can draw from, and means we don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to wellbeing, making it super effective and personalised to the individual user. One of the teams key strengths is that it is flexible and responsive to the needs of the person, whoever you are, and without that it wouldn’t have the level of effectiveness that it does. - Innovative in support, even for the Manaaki team members - i.e. ‘coffee roulette’ where members are given free coffee+muffin vouchers and are matched with someone different in the team fortnightly to strengthen bonds, encourage connection, share knowledge/skills/attributes and provide Manaaki for the Manaaki team members. - Innovative by approach – the Manaaki team consists of people employed by Refining NZ, but also includes members from our various contracting teams across site, ensuring we Manaaki all who contribute to the success of the organisation, whether they are employed by RNZ directly or not.

Supporting materials (optional)

Photograph of key staff (optional)

Link to video (optional)

Referee details

Caz Jackson, Chief People Officer (Refining NZ)

021 840 475 • [email protected]

Key contact

Cory Abraham, Health and Safety Advisor (Refining NZ)

022 093 6258 • [email protected]

3 Months
Since posted
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Principal Sponsor
AIA VitalityAll About People
ANZCO FoodsBenestar
Business Leaders' Health & Safety ForumEmployers & Manufacturers Association
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Ministry of Health
PwC New ZealandRussell McVeagh
SparkThe Warehouse Group
Whittaker'sWoo Wellbeing
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