Our story

New Zealand's first volunteer fire services were founded in the 1850s. Since then, firefighting in New Zealand has evolved in line with international standards into the mix of paid full-time, paid on-call and volunteer responders that make up Fire and Emergency New Zealand today.

The early days

For most of its history, New Zealand’s fire services were funded and managed locally. There was little central coordination, resulting in significant variation between local fire services.

The Ballantynes’ Fire of 1947, where 41 people lost their lives, was a watershed moment in the history of fire services in New Zealand. It led to the passing of the first fire safety legislation.

A further reform in 1975 amalgamated local authority Fire Boards into a national New Zealand Fire Service. However, Rural Fire Authorities were retained as separate organisations, coordinated by the National Rural Fire Authority.

For over 40 years, there were no further significant changes to fire service legislation. This was despite significant changes in New Zealand's firefighting environment. More recently, however, there has been a growing impetus for legislative change.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Two reviews of the fire services were undertaken between 2012 and 2015. These considered mandate, rural and urban governance and support structures, legislation modernisation, funding, and coordination with other emergency services.

Through extensive consultation with stakeholders, these reviews resulted in wide agreement on the type of fire services needed in New Zealand, and how best those services should be supported and funded. They paved the way for reform.

These reviews also drew on lessons from other fire services internationally on how best to approach the reforms. To be successful, the changes should be co-designed with the sector, incorporate the perspective of communities, and grow an organisation that is reflective of the communities it serves.

Following these two reviews, Cabinet agreed to unify urban and rural fire services, to use a new funding model, to repeal two Acts, and to create a new law for fire services in New Zealand.

The Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 11 May 2017, and Fire and Emergency New Zealand was established on 1 July 2017.