Although her job is about health and safety, Nicole Rosie has taken bold moves in her career to date
An advocate of better workplace health and safety says compassion is critical
1985-1989 Gisborne Girls’ High School Born into a fifth- generation Gisborne family, Nicole spent her school holidays working at Rosies, a haberdashery store that her family had run since the 19th century. “We had an idyllic life on the beach and I loved Gisborne Girls, which was very multicultural.” She was a classic high achiever – a prefect and board of trustees student rep who played sports at regional level, was academically successful and involved in speech and drama to boot. “I was into everything.”
1990-1994 Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts, Hons, University of Otago Nicole was accepted into both law and physiotherapy, pursuing the former because she saw it as a greater opportunity to help people. During her fi nal year, a tennis injury progressed into a chronic pain problem, which accelerated her interest in the crossover between law and medicine. “Particularly in the pain clinic at the hospital, seeing how often the system was the creator of disability was very concerning.”
1995-1998 Law clerk, Buddle Findlay; case and claims manager, and review manager, ACC After Otago, Nicole worked at law firm Buddle Findlay but left due to her injury and because she “wanted to change the world, and I realized the system wasn’t working well for people”. She began working at ACC in West Auckland, reviewing complex claims. A month after Nicole left, her colleague Janet Pike was murdered by a claimant following a payment dispute. “That really brought home how committed people were – Janet would do anything to help – but also how complex the challenges were for people accessing ACC.” 1996-2001 Master of Laws, Law and Medicine, University of Auckland; health and injury prevention manager, Fletcher Challenge Forests; damages claims manager, WorkSafe Queensland Nicole’s Master of Laws, jointly supervised by the university’s law and medical faculties, focused on management of overuse conditions, formerly known as RSI. “There was evidence that things were diagnosed as overuse conditions when they weren’t,” she explains. She set up the ACC self- insurance programme at Fletcher Challenge Forests and managed health and safety at the company’s sawmill in Waipa, where she took the team through a Toastmasters programme. It went from the company’s worst- performing site in health and safety to the best. “We had a whole group of leaders, predominantly Maori men, who ended up leading health and safety change.” Nicole then moved to Queensland with her now- husband and worked for the statutory body that provided workers’ compensation insurance in the state.
2002-2003 Masters of Public Health, Harvard University Nicole was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for Harvard, where 98 per cent of fellow students were doctors and health professionals. “I could immerse myself in the medical side of the equation and look into why doctors were incentivized to diagnose people even when it was wrong.” 2002-2010 GM risk and strategy, Toll NZ; GM safety and policy, KiwiRail Nicole began working for TranzRail six months before it was bought by Toll. “There had been a political spotlight on rail and I was in the hot seat in terms of managing regulators and trying to keep the business running while managing significant under- investment, and then the sale back to the government. In between that I had three of my four children – it was a really busy time.”
2010-2016 Manager of strategic relationships, Vector; director of health and safety and other roles, Fonterra After a year in senior management with power provider Vector, Nicole moved to Fonterra. “They confirmed the job the day [ her youngest son] Fletcher was born. That showed real progressive leadership – employing someone who had four children and had literally just had a baby.” During her fi ve-and-a- half years with Fonterra, Nicole led major programmes including Farm Source, aimed at reconnecting the company with farmers.
2016- present chief executive, WorkSafe Moving from the private to public sector was driven by being “an absolutely passionate New Zealander”. “I think we’re starting to see a substantial change in mindset – more people are talking about risk management as the right thing to do, not just cost and compliance.” Fewer accidents in high- risk areas is “great news – that’s families seeing their loved ones who otherwise wouldn’t be”.