Churchill Consulting

Safety – Nothing Less at Aurora Energy

Safety – Nothing Less at Aurora Energy

  • Posted:
  • Category:Case Study
  • Offering:Strategy
  • Industry:Electricity

The client

Aurora Energy supplies electricity to over 90,000 customers in Central Otago, Queenstown Lakes, Wanaka and Dunedin. In 2016, Aurora Energy split from its services business, Delta Utility Services, to form a standalone asset owner / asset operator utilities company.

As one of his first initiatives, the new CEO sought an external assessment of its health, safety and risk management system and culture. The Churchill assessment established a baseline maturity across policies, procedures, and behaviours to highlight any areas affected by the separation, identify quick wins and develop a prioritised plan of activities to mature Aurora Energy competencies as Asset Owner / Operator.

Acting on the assessment outcomes, the Aurora Energy Board and Executive launched the Safety Choices program of initiatives to strengthen their safety culture, raise the profile of critical risks and improve the identification and response to Public Safety defects and hazards. Churchill designed and lead the Safety Choices Program with a project team consisting of Aurora Energy staff and Churchill team members.

Aurora Energy have safety as one of their core values, and the improvements and innovations they have implemented in Public Safety have been recognised as leading practice by WorkSafe NZ in its annual Public Safety Systems certification.


To set a baseline and gain a deep understanding of the enablers and barriers to raising safety maturity, Churchill undertook a Safety and Risk Assessment. This assessment covered three areas;

  • Benchmarking of the current Safety Management System maturity by documentation review, stakeholder interviews and field observations
  • Churchill Safety Mindset Assessment, conducting 37 behavioural event interviews with employees and contractors across all organisational levels, functions and locations
  • Risk Management end to end process assessment to understand how risks are identified, communicated and controlled.

The findings of the assessment and a set of supporting recommendations were presented to the Board and Executive which initiated the Safety Choices Program that contained both quick wins and foundational activity streams to strengthen safety performance and culture, including;

  • Safety Leadership Development – a coaching program for Board and Executive members to demonstrate visual safety leadership through safety observations.
  • Our Safety Rules – aligned to critical risks, a set of safety behaviours expected from all Aurora Energy employees
  • Emergency Response Improvement – strengthening processes, procedures and competencies for management of emergency events.
  • Rapid Public Safety Defect Resolution – design and implementation of a organisational capability to quickly identify, respond and resolve network defects that impacted public safety.
  • Risk Control and Management System – produce and implement a management standard that allowed the Board to clearly differentiate critical risk and set risk appetite, and incorporate the concepts of controls based risk assessment and asset health.

By running the activities streams under the Safety Choices banner, interdependencies between streams were able to be managed more effectively and enabled unified communication to the business.

Particular features of the Churchill approach:

  • Use of behavioural event interviews and extensive safety benchmark data to reflect current state maturity and culture
  • Combining innovative technology and proven change management techniques to support cultural change and capability development required for Rapid Response outcomes.
  • Tailored communication to suit disparate audience needs, our hands-on approach included more than just high level consulting advice, with a focus where needed on the drafting and design of specific communication material and key messages.
  • Robust project management, ensuring the assignment remained on time and on budget.


Safety Choices ran for a 12-month period and produced the following results;

  • Board and Executive staff undertaking safety observations every month (every quarter for the Board)
  • Almost all Aurora staff had accompanied an Executive on a safety observation (for many staff their first opportunity to witness work in the field)
  • Resolution time of public safety defects reduced from days to hours
  • Rapid Response capability received positive feedback from Worksafe NZ and in the 2019 and 2020 Public Safety Audit Reports
  • Emergency Management processes and capability aligned to CIMS
  • Transparent and connected risk management system from Board to asset
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