Vern Rosieur (Ngāti Manuhiri) has been in the electricity business since 1985, starting out as a cable layer at the Auckland Electric Power Board. Since then he has worked his way up as an overhead and underground electricity reticulation specialist and in field manager positions.
Vern is now Human Resources Field Manager for Northpower, the Trust-owned network that keeps the lights on in the Whangarei and Kaipara regions. He has worked there since 1999, when Northpower established itself as a multi-utility contractor in Auckland.
Vern describes his job as looking after the hearts and minds of Northpower's people. He established Northpower's team of trade coaches, people who provide pastoral care, training, coaching and mentoring to field staff. Vern credits his humble upbringing, living in a sugar shack and working from the age of 11 on a fishing boat for his people-centred values.
According to Barbara Harrison, Northpower's General Manager Business Support, Vern's current role "was created for him to ensure that his coaching, mentoring and leadership skills could be shared as widely as possible. To say that Vern is the very hub and centre of our field crews does not do justice to what Vern does for our teams and indeed for our industry."
She adds: "Vern's love, care, respect and leadership of people is very genuine. His support of the people within the industry is far-reaching and has touched several generations."
Vern was unable to read or write competently when he left school but he developed these skills, and is committed to his own and other's lifelong learning.
He has fostered many learning programmes, including a foremen's training programme, a financial literacy programme for employees, and a female trainee line mechanic programme being established to increase workforce diversity.
Barbara says that the personal lives of Northpower staff are "colourful and varied", and that personal issues sometimes affect performance at work. "Vern provides support to our people so that they feel part of the Northpower family, and so that problems at home don't cause a crisis at work."
She adds, "He's the first person called in times of financial or personal crisis, and has consistently provided support and care for our industry's people in time of great need."
Vern provides leadership, both because of his role in the industry and his standing in the Maori community. When one senior employee recent died, says Barbara, "Vern's quiet yet strong, firm leadership humbled me and provided much comfort to those who had known our employee for many years.'
After learning that a former colleague's widow was struggling to provide for her family, Vern approached Northpower management to suggest establishing a koha policy. Northpower developed a policy on gifting to staff, including koha for tangi, retirement gifts, terminal illness and births. "Now, as a lasting legacy of Vern's actions, all our people know that should their family need it, Northpower's care will extend to them," says Barbara.
Barbara says that while she was preparing Vern's Walk The Talk entry, she came across a 20-year-old reference from the Auckland Electric Power Board which described him as a responsible, cheerful, cooperative and competent worker who was well-liked by his peers.
"Those comments are as true of Vern today as they were when they were written," says Barbara. "Simply put, people join and stay with Northpower because of Vern and because of the whānau-based culture that Vern and Northpower have fostered. Northpower without Vern would be a poorer place indeed."