Nominee/entrant details


Organisation details

Size: 1,000-4,999 staff

Industry: Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services

Organisation background

Northpower is an Electricity Distribution Company. We have a Network and Fibre business in Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) and Contracting Services across the North Island in Distribution and Transmission. We have 1300 staff and in a predominantly male industry we are made up of 84% men and 16% women. We have 12 depots including Whangarei, Maungaturoto, Dargaville, Warkworth, Waiheke, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Tauranga, Matamata, Wellington and Paraparaumu.

Executive summary

The Kaitiaki Network is Northpower’s Peer Support Network. 34 volunteers, spread from Whangarei to Wellington, have picked up the wero (challenge) to bridge the gap between te po (the darkness) and te ao (the light) for their workmates. Our role is to be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry and a bridge to support. Like our business, our network is diverse in age, gender, culture, religion and life experience. Our collective strengths unite us and empower us to do what we can to achieve our vision; our people know potential for tomorrow exists in what we do today.

Background on situation and opportunity

After completing our first 2019 Wellbeing Survey it was clear that our people wanted to feel connected with others and understand more about support resources available. We felt a peer-support network would be a great opportunity to bridge this gap. The network was in the pipeline when Covid19 hit and the first lockdown in April 2020 accelerated the group’s formation. Over 40 people from across the business volunteered to join. At the time we could only train 20 over Teams but we have now grown 70% in our second year (34).


Our strategy was to find 20 Kaitiaki across the business who were a reflection of our staff. They would be a place for people to connect and find support. Their focus was on having conversations with people experiencing challenging times and using their traffic light system (green, orange, red) they would connect their peer with the right skills or support (like our EAP Support, Raise). Our key target was to ensure we had a good representation from our different depots, our different cultures, genders and parts of the organisation. The goal was for this group to be separate from managers or team mates so people had a safe space if they did not feel comfortable doing so within their team. The first focus for this group was to ensure they were set up with the right people that they had good support around them and then we began to build relationships with each other. Once this was done well, our next focus was on visibility in the business and building relationships with people in their respective depots including Senior Leadership. We began our relationship building online, as we are spread geographically, with fortnightly Microsoft Teams Hui that have been going strong since April 2020. We have tweaked the meetings to have one early (6.30am) and one late (9am) each month to ensure that all Kaitiaki have the opportunity to attend. During these meetings we share what is “top of mind” for us and flag any challenges or barriers we are seeing or hearing about.


Pre Covid19 we had big plans to advertise the network and do a travelling BBQ breakfast to recruit suitable candidates to the Kaitiaki Network. That was the expectation but the reality once Covid hit was fully online recruitment and training. We sent a companywide email out inviting people to express their interest to become a Kaitiaki and had 45 replies come through within the week. It was important to us that successful applicants had faced their own challenges previously and that they were in a good space to be having conversations with others at that time. When reviewing applications we took into account their experience, their location and their role. Once we selected the 20 Kaitaiki, they had online training for two hours each week for the first four weeks. This training was facilitated by Tuihana Ohia from Woo Wellbeing and featured Men’s Health and Wellbeing Experts, a Mental Health Practitioner and an Emotional Wellbeing Coach. Following our first training the network has met every fortnight for the past 15 months for a debrief, opportunity to share and receive updates on Wellbeing and Mental Health across the business. Our Kaitiaki Network has an online hub on SharePoint and their names and photos are printed and shared in the different regions. Opportunities for further training has included Mental Health 101 through Blueprint for Learning, LeVa LifeKeepers, Rangai Wellbeing Collective Monthly Huis and Masterclasses. There are so many great things going on in the Mental Health space in New Zealand and we believe in curation over curation and making the most of what already exists to ensure we can share practical options that all people (not just our staff) can access.

Engagement and communication

Our initial contact during the first lockdown in April 2020 was by email and followed by Microsoft Teams Meetings. When building new connections, especially in a space around wellbeing and mental health, our preference is face to face but as this was not an option we had to take our time online and give everyone the opportunity to share about themselves including the use of breakout rooms where we could. Our Fortnightly Hui’s have been where a lot of the magic has happened. Each hui we usually do a “top of mind” sharing which has led to building connections between each other as our Kaitiaki need support as well. This has been where each of the Kaitiaki has begun to lower the barrier and understand what is going on in other depots, as before this it was not unusual for people who work in only one depot to have a ‘silo mentality’ as they do not know what is going on in other areas. Great shares would happen for example our more experienced Kaitiaki sharing tips on building relationships and trust within the workplace, for example, arriving at work earlier and talking to others about their families and what is going on for them. More recently we were able to get our Kaitiaki Network together face to face for the first time for a two day workshop. We spent two days at a noho marae hosting our Kaitiaki and two external speakers on Mental Health. We worked together to refine who we are, what our purpose is, what we want to achieve, what our values are and what our focus is going to be for the next 12 months.


The impact on the Kaitiaki involved in this kaupapa has been tremendous. Realising that they have a BIG collective voice and direct lines into our Executive Team has meant that they feel they really can achieve change for their peers. Having the Kaitiaki Network in place has provided a place for manager and peers to come to when they are worried about someone and they don’t know what to do. Through the network we have been able to do wellbeing check-ins on staff and get them the support they need when they are facing tough times. Our Kaitiaki are an excellent representation of our business and so have acted as a review group for new ideas or initiatives that will be rolled out across their regions. Their feedback on the culture of their environment has been invaluable when making decisions about the overall wellbeing strategy. Our first year was about establishing our network and part way through our second year it has been about really solidifying why we are here and what we can do. The network are putting their hands up to do things like run our GSI/Culture Survey because they want more opportunities to get in front of staff and they want their peers to have confidence that the data they provide is anonymous and honest feedback is necessary to make positive changes in our workplace. In our second year we have grown from 20 to 34 Kaitiaki (70% increase) with support from the business only growing and senior levels realising the impact a group of people like this can have on the field. We have 34 people within the business who are passionate about building a mentally healthy workplace. This is just the start.


Earlier this year we began a pilot of a Tikanga and Te Reo program in Whangarei. 30 staff including 5 of our Executive Team set out learning about Te Ao Maori. The outcome has been learning a waiata, karakia, mihimihi, pepeha and speaking everyday basic te reo maori. We have had full day Wananga at work on a Sunday and attended either a Monday or Tuesday night session at work for 18 weeks. The first phase was so successful we are beginning phase two late July. During our Tikanga and Te Reo program we build whanaunatanga by creating a safe environment and participating in the collection, cooking and serving of Kai. We also did this at our noho marae by self-catering, taking turns to cook and clean in the kitchen and building deeper connection with our peers. Three of our Kaitiaki have attended these classes and at our Noho Marae all three of them participated in the Porwhiri and closing of the session. Two of our Kaitiaki, Joe and Brook, stood in the wharenui for the first time in their lives as the first and second speaker during the mihi whakatau. Joe is in his late 50’s and Brook his 40’s. Our Wellbeing approach has been guided by Te Ao Maori since it was first formed in 2019 but as our knowledge and facts grow, so to do our ideas. We are at the beginning of the journey and the principals of Te Tiriti o Waitangi are at the forefront of our future strategies.

Innovation and creativity

We have a workplace podcast called Haumaru. Haumaru means a safe place, a place to be risk free, and a place to be open. The purpose of the podcast is to get to know our people better, discussing their successes and challenges. Episodes have covered Fostering Children, Weight Loss Surgery, Men’s Mental Health, Stress Bod, Sports, Adult Study, Irish Love Stories, Search and Rescue plus external guests including Matt Calman the Author of The Longest Day. Season one has wrapped and Season two’s upcoming focus is “Life isn’t perfect”, looking at all of the things below the success iceberg like struggle, sacrifice and hard work. Mental Health has been identified as one of our top 10 Critical Risks and is currently in the process of going through our Critical Risk Control Management Framework. This is a 5 step framework aimed at preventing harm for our most critical risks. A 9 person working group has been developed across the business and has completed a bow-tie analysis on one scenario centred on a decline in mental health. We have identified five critical controls that will be measured for their effectiveness, monitored, reported on and reviewed annually. The four existing controls we are focusing on are Position Descriptions, Performance Management Framework (Reviews and Development Plans), Raise (EAP Provider), GSI/Culture Survey and we added one new control, Mental Health Literacy, which will be our next big focus across the organisation. All of this work will align with the new ISO Standard 450003:2021. Our Kaitiaki Network will be rolling out the surveys as an opportunity to connect with staff and ensure confidence in the results. Our Kaitiaki Network has been asked to create a plan around a Hardship fund that staff can access when they are in financial hardship. Their role is to define how it would be administered, criteria for access and to remove any barriers that could make it difficult for staff to access it.

Supporting materials (optional)

Photograph of key staff (optional)

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Referee details

Andrea O’Brien, General Manager of People and Capability (Northpower)

0273550030 • [email protected]

Key contact

Lian Passmore, Engagement and Wellbeing Manager (Northpower)

0212491001 • [email protected]

6 Months
Since posted
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