New Zealand Rugby's investigation into the Chiefs' end-of-season celebration is an absolute failure, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner says.
An open letter has been sent to the organisation over its joint inquiry, with the rugby team's management and the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association, into allegations some players abused a woman performing as a stripper.
The woman, who asked to be known as Scarlette, said some players groped her, threw gravel and swore at her at the function on 1 August at the Ōkoroire Hot Pools, near Matamata.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said yesterday its investigation found the allegations were unsubstantiated.
It had decided not to take further action, other than giving the team a collective formal caution.
The letter was signed or supported by the National Council of Women, the Council of Trade Unions, the YWCA, the Māori Women's Welfare League, several MPs, the Human Rights Commissioner, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner and more than a dozen others.
It called for courage and personal leadership from the sport's senior managers over the incident.
A # of organisations has penned an open letter to NZ Rugby, slamming it for its investigation into the Chiefs. pic.twitter.com/BKv1YNAx0L— Checkpoint (@CheckpointRNZ) September 8, 2016
Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue told Checkpoint with John Campbell it was a mistake not to make the inquiry independent.
"It really means the inquiry failed, it absolutely failed," she said.
"There should have been some strong recommendations about the process, about the management, about the fact there's a woman who felt so unsafe that she went public.
"It went off the rails completely. The first error was obviously not having independence and doing their own internal inquiry conducted by a paid employee.
"If you're going to ask the same questions of the same people, by the same person, you're going to get the same result."
She said it was unclear what the finding that the allegations were unsubstantiated meant.
"We have no names [of people involved in the investigation], we don't know what kind of questions were asked, we know none of this."
Dr Blue said she had offered support to the Chiefs directly and urged them to do an independent inquiry after news of the incident broke a month ago.
If they had accepted her advice and support, one of the first people she would have told them to contact would have been sexual assault victims' advocate Louise Nicholas. "They [were] obviously getting on with their inquiry, didn't feel that they needed our support, so we just left the matter."
He told Morning Report New Zealand Rugby's general counsel had put an enormous amount of energy and personal effort into it.
"He has interviewed people in confidence who have shared with him exactly what they believed to have taken place, and that's what's bought us to the conclusions we have made," he said.
But Dr Blue said the investigation was appalling.
"Every woman has the right to be safe in their work and their home or when they go about their business no matter what their occupational profession.
"And just to say that the process was wrong, [that] they shouldn't have it on an outside venue, that they shouldn't have hired a stripper or that was inappropriate - the inappropriate thing was that the woman felt so unsafe, when she should have felt safe, she had every right to feel safe."
She said what New Zealand Rugby should do now was accept help from any number of those who signed the letter.
"They have to accept there's an issue, and they should see it not as a failure, but to see it as being courageous and they would be applauded if they came forward and said 'we need help'."
In response to the letter, Mr Tew said in a statement New Zealand Rugby would be talking with the Human Rights Commission about what it could do.
"Despite all we are doing in this area, recent events show we have not got it right," he said.
He noted New Zealand Rugby was continuing to expand programmes that provided social education for players, including on risk awareness, social media, relationships and mental well-being.
"We are continuing to expand on this work, and are developing a respect and responsibility education programme focused further on healthy relationships and consent issues.
"Today, we began advertising for a respect and responsibility manager to spearhead the project underlining our commitment to this important work. In addition, New Zealand Rugby is also leading work with six other sports codes on inclusion and diversity."