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Let it go, Pete!

Hamilton employment advocate Allan Halse has been in the news recently, in relation to a whistleblower retaliation matter where the alleged serious wrongdoing was electoral fraud.  It’s not pretty - around nine Government agencies are investigating.  Halse represents about seven employees who allegedly were retaliated against. 

A recent RNZ report on the matter is here.

Don’t get us wrong – Allan Halse is not the only employment advocate who has experienced whistleblower retaliation either vicariously through clients, or personally.  Every advocate’s journey to that line of work had to start somewhere.  But not many people would dispute that Halse is suited to this particular job. 

As most grievances filed in the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) end up settling confidentially in mediation, it’s possible that we won’t have much further to report on the employment aspect of the Manurewa matter.   What we can see though, at this early stage is that the employer may have fallen foul of the Protected Disclosures Act 2022, hence our interest.   So far we know of only one employment dispute where the PDA2022 was raised in the ERA, and this was reported on by us and Newsroom.  Our follow-up is here: Whistleblower retaliation case settles  (27 March 2024).

Standing up for the rights of whistleblowers, or even reporting on legal matters that feature whistleblower retaliation, can be hazardous.  Halse’s company Culturesafe NZ Ltd was placed in liquidation on application by Rangiura Trust Board which operates a South Waikato rest home.  He had advocated for around a dozen employees including one who had reported payroll fraud and experienced bullying and other retaliation, and Rangiura (then anonymised to RPW) asked the ERA in to fine and/or imprison him in 2018.   A South Auckland healthcare provider Turuki Healthcare has similarly been making sporadic attempts to bankrupt him since March 2020.


Malicious prosecution

But the most stunning case we have reported on was brought by the former Bay of Plenty District Health Board (BOP DHB) which spent more than $600,000 plus GST over five years, from December 2018 to February 2024, applying for a finding of contempt, a penalty and costs against Halse, his company, and his then client, cardiac physiologist Ana Shaw.

Shaw had been dismissed from Tauranga Hospital, managed at the time by BOP DHB, in 2015.  She challenged that dismissal all the way to the Supreme Court, unsuccessfully, in 2022.

In 2018, three years after raising her grievance, Shaw was subsisting on retail work and incredibly, still waiting for an ERA investigation meeting.  She alleged that two managers were stalking her, including outside her new workplace and she and her colleagues took photos of one, COO (later CEO) Peter Chandler loitering in the rear car park.  Through Halse she filed that photographic evidence in the ERA.  Shaw also participated in a RNZ interview.

In December 2018 the ERA dismissed Shaw’s grievances and made a direction that BOP DHB run fresh proceedings - a taxpayer-funded private prosecution of sorts similar to what the UK Post Office were previously doing, against Shaw and Halse for “mak[ing] scandalous allegations”.  But BOP DHB never said what the contempt was, and nor did Judge Corkill make them.  We couldn’t make sense of its Amended Statement of Claim, which we publicised.

On 1 July 2022 all DHBs were absorbed by Health NZ |Te Whatu Ora, which inherited these proceedings that by then we were reporting as being bogus.

We don’t know how it would be legally possible to “settle” contempt proceedings.  Nonetheless, after five years, Te Whatu Ora settled the proceedings with Halse at a Judicial Settlement Conference.


The Hate Boat

We mentioned the photographic evidence of stalking, by the then COO Peter Chandler outside Shaw’s workplace. Leighton Associates, then only a few months old, started reporting on the BOP DHB v Shaw matter in November 2019.

On 1 February 2020 an anonymously-run Facebook page called Culturesafe Survivor Support Group (which we’ll call CSSG) was created.   Its first post said:

We were blissfully unaware of the existence of this page until late 2021, and when we did discover it, we didn’t realistically expect to find out who the page admin was.  The page was inactive for around 15 months from late 2022.  But in early 2024 Jo Thompson, whose company Halse subcontracted to, parted ways with him.   While this happened in acrimonious circumstances, we are unaware of any litigation resulting from that parting.  


Fourth Estate superstar

Leveraging acrimony from the split with Thompson, CSSG resumed its “I Hate Allan” posts.  A 23 March 2024 Waikato Times article mentioned the page briefly:  “A CultureSafe Survivors Facebook page has been set up, and has 25 followers, to the derision of Halse.” 

Nearly three months on, the page has a whopping 38 followers.  Also in March, we found out the page admin was Peter Chandler, which the Waikato Times could not have reasonably been expected to know.   Given Chandler’s (former) access to a six-figure war chest for the BOP DHB to privately prosecute Halse for communications including his social media presence, the irony was not lost on us.

In mid-2020 Chandler was promoted to CEO of BOP DHB, where he remained until all DHBs were absorbed into Te Whatu Ora two years later.  Te Whatu Ora then struggled to shut down Chandler’s burdensome pet project but eventually managed by way of a Judicial Settlement Conference to discontinue the proceedings against Halse in February 2024. 

That was a surprising move, because by then the issue in the BOP DHB scandal was not so much how Chandler and barrister Mark Beech were able to access the funds to bring bogus proceedings, but why the judges were supporting it.  Back in 2020, and again more recently, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) was being invoked in open court.  A paywalled February 2023 article by NBR raised an issue of how this country treats skilled migrants (Shaw is South African).  Alarm bells should have been ringing.


Blocked – groupies only

The writer replied to an incorrect comment on the CSSG page, including excerpts from an Employment Court decision showing that the prosecution of Halse had been discontinued – and was blocked.  It would seem that Chandler would rather run an echo chamber and surround himself with groupies than allow disappointing news to be publicised, but doesn’t quite know what to do about media interest in the remaining, embarrassingly zombified proceedings against Shaw.

Returning to the Manurewa matter, the former NHS manager’s attitude towards whistleblower protection appears to be very much at odds with the spirit of the PDA2022.

Suggesting that calling the Police on whistleblowers is appropriate is a new one for us.  It’s an example of why our old Protected Disclosures Act 2000, which was probably no better than the UK’s PIDA 1998, needed to be upgraded.

It’s over, Pete.  Time to find another hobby.


Tristam Price, Leighton Associates

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