Kainga Ora – Home and Communities

Nominee/entrant details

Kainga Ora - Home and Communities

Organisation details

Size: 1,000-4,999 staff

Industry: Public Administration and Safety

Organisation background

The outcomes we are asked to achieve as Kāinga Ora Homes and Communities go beyond being a social landlord or urban development agency. Our legislative framework puts in place operating principles that enable us to have a much larger impact on New Zealand and the quality of New Zealanders’ lives. Our core purpose as an organisation is to make a positive difference in people’s lives. 189,000 people live in our homes and we own or manage 66,000+ properties. This mandate is reflected in our new Vision Statement: Building better, brighter homes, communities and lives. http://www.kaingaora.govt.nz

Executive summary

The environment that our people work in can at times be quite challenging to deal with. Whilst the majority of our work is truly satisfying and we love the difference we make to the lives of those who need safe and healthy homes, the role of supporting our tenants can be tough. Wā Manaaki is a proactive tool to support professional development and part of our Health and Wellbeing Toolkit. This service is available to all staff, utilising individual and group sessions. This bespoke and professional solution is both innovative and has been received extremely well by our people.

Background on situation and opportunity

Our employees work in customer facing support roles such as our call centres, tenancy managers, tenancy rehousing and placement teams. Our people are working with customers living in difficult situations and face challenging environments daily. This can, at times, impact our people’s wellbeing. Although reactive support options such as EAP were already in place we felt more proactive support could be provided. This identified a gap to provide access to qualified professionals who our people could engage with, to review, develop tools and behaviours to enhance their day to day work and reflect on improvements for better mentally healthy work.


Wā Manaaki is support time; time to take care of, to show respect, generosity and care for others. It’s a forum for reflection and learning to promote professional competence; and accountable and safe practice for our customer (tenant) contact roles. Wā Manaaki is a confidential, ongoing service where our people are encouraged to reflect on their professional practice and methods for handling the challenges of their work. This service is provided by ABACUS Counselling Training & Supervision Ltd. People in our customer facing roles are encouraged to attend both individual and group sessions as a normal part of their role. Wā Manaaki provides the tools to support the wellbeing of our people in a way that suit their needs. It is designed to both protect their health and wellbeing and respond to the complexity of their work. While the content of the Wā Manaaki sessions are confidential, categories of themes are reported back to Kāinga Ora each month. This allows the organisation to have another measure of the temperature or well-being of the organisation as a whole, as well as alerting Health and Wellbeing if any serious concerns have arisen in the month.


A Kāinga Ora project team led the rollout of this programme in partnership with Abacus Counselling Training & Supervision Ltd. This was a new initiative and in line with our Kainga Ora values. With the support of our senior leadership team, we engaged with our employees to further understand the mental health impacts they faced in their frontline roles. We conducted surveys, analysed our incident data and trends, and reviewed how organisations within New Zealand and overseas proactively addressed these issues. We researched a broad range of literature and guidance material, including the ‘Canadian National Standard Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace’, to understand what we should implement for enhancing positive health and well-being outcomes. We developed a range of potential solutions and re-consulted with employees about what they felt would be the right fit in the context of their practice. Once Abacus was selected, we provided an orientation to fully ensure that they understood the complex working environment. Abacus further collaborated in refining our programme. We utilised focus groups to pilot the draft programme and developed a communication plan including; creating a landing page, videos, newsletters, a portal for mental health resources, and training for leaders. We applied the ADKAR change management methodology to ensure success. An important aspect of this was the face-to-face “meet and greets” with supervisors and our employees and the promotion from our leaders. Employees can choose to match up with any Abacus supervisor with remote sessions. This enables appointments with supervisors in different locations; employees can also easily change supervisors to find the best possible fit. We continually review and evaluate the service incorporating continuous improvement.

Engagement and communication

We engaged and consulted with our workers throughout the project. The rollout of this programme was led by a Kāinga Ora project team in partnership with ABACUS Counselling Training & Supervision Ltd and with the support of a Steering Group. Our awareness campaign began prior to the start of the service to help our people understand what Professional Supervision was, the benefits it could provide, how to access it and what to expect from their first session. The approach included: Regular email communications to our people with a focus on “What’s In It For Me” Listening to or people’s feedback on what would help them Promotion via our Health and Safety Representatives, People Leaders and Health and Safety Advisors · A suite of videos featuring people within Kāinga Ora who had previous experience with Professional Supervision and an ABACUS Supervisor · Meet and greets, where ABACUS supervisors visited our offices around the country and gave our people an opportunity to meet them prior to their first session · Providing choice – our people can choose to match up with any ABACUS supervisor with remote sessions enabling appointments with supervisors in different locations; · Providing a diverse pool of supervisors · Offering both group and monthly individual sessions · Strongly encouraging our people to attend without making the service mandatory · A naming competition which resulted in the new service name: Wā Manaaki.


Feedback from our target audience has been uplifting, they feel cared for and listened to. We were thrilled to see that the 2020 Kāinga survey collected comments from our users, a common trend was people noticing the significant benefits of their sessions, especially when they had initially resisted the service, or didn’t understand how it could help them in their roles. Some comments follow: “Keep up the good work. It has definitely helped me in ways that I wouldn’t expect.” “Thank you! My PS has really helped me through what many of us would call an unprecedented year, to navigate uncertainty. I was almost forced to take the opportunity and now find myself counting the days down to my next session. I find much relief in going to a neutral sound(ing) board who listens intently and offers perspective and alternatives. He does not give advice but alternatives and that's really cool! [My supervisor] is absolute Gold) Thanks Kāinga Ora for making this happen.” “At first I was against this whole Professional Supervision. I chose my supervisor based on her description about herself not her qualifications etc. She stood out to me as a real person I knew I could speak with. I am so happy my instincts were correct because my first session, we hit it off. Then each session became easier and easier, and it was helping me become a better person and doing my job better. These sessions and my supervisor helped me to identify my faults and then allowed me to fix them myself. There was no judgement on my supervisor’s part but more acknowledging what I had identified in myself and encouraging me to work on improving. I have benefited from these sessions. I enjoy advertising to my colleagues to book sessions and my reasons why.”


Part of the importance of the programme is what it should be called - a competition was held to find a name that supported the intent of the programme - Wa Manaaki Manaaki 1. (verb) (-tia) to support, take care of, give hospitality to, protect, look out for - show respect, generosity and care for others. The Public Service Association and our Health and Safety Reps were included in the design process for ensuring the programme met the needs of the people who were receiving it. For this programme to succeed and deliver we needed everyone to buy-in. Whilst the programme was rolled out early 2020 the impact of COVID-19 was evident in the early adoption however, ABACUS were instrumental in ensuring outbound calling enabled an increase in uptake at a vital time.

Innovation and creativity

This programme is innovative and leading in the health and wellbeing field. When we sought to deliver this programme we were unable to find a programme successfully operating in New Zealand to follow. We have however, shared our programme design and delivery model with many other organisations.

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Photograph of key staff (optional)

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Referee details

Naomi Hosted, Manager Technical Response (Kainga Ora - Homes and Communities)

0212749358 • [email protected]

Key contact

Tarniya Comrie, Director Safety, Support and Wellbeing (Kainga Ora - Homes and Communities)

021951837 • [email protected]

6 Months
Since posted
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