Board Update - July 2017

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Board Update - July 2017

Welcome to the very first Board Update from Fire and Emergency New Zealand. Thanks to everyone for making Day One such a success.

I have included pictures of some of the events that were held around the country in this update. If these pictures do not load for you, please see the attached .pdf

We are now focusing on the next phase – Integration – over the next three years. The Board will be updating you on progress over the coming months.  

Firstly though, a word of thanks to everyone who’s been involved in the response to everything Mother Nature has thrown at us over the past month or so. Although we could do without gale southerlies and record amounts of rainfall at the same time, it has been great to see firefighters rallying around their communities, and vice versa.

The Board would also like to congratulate Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade, who took out first place at the 2017 Australasian Road Crash Rescue Challenge (see video here) – a fantastic effort against 20 other highly-skilled teams from around New Zealand, Australia, and Hong Kong. Well done to you and the 2016 champions Geraldine Volunteer Fire Brigade, who followed closely in second place.

Day One - Fire and Emergency NZ

The rain couldn’t dampen our parade in Ashburton on Saturday 1 July, as we got together with Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne, Ashburton Mayor Donna Favel, other dignitaries, and local urban and rural fire people to celebrate Day One of Fire and Emergency NZ (see video highlights here).

The Board is very grateful to Mayor Favel and the people of Ashburton for inviting us, and to members of the local event organising committee who made it all happen. We’ve since also received many photos from other stations, brigades, and rural fire forces across the country who held their own events around 1 July.

L – R (Clockwise): Day One parade in Ashburton, Te Puke’s flag lowering ceremony, Minister Dunne with Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew, Mid-South Canterbury Area Manager Paul Henderson and Police Inspector Dave Gaskin; Gisborne Area Manager Charlie Turei cutting a Fire and Emergency cake with East Coast MP Anne Tolley and local partners.  

L – R (Clockwise): BBQ celebrations at Porirua Fire Station; Rural firefighters at the opening of Puhoi Fire Station; Minister Dunne meets rural firefighters in Ashburton; Chair Paul Swain with a copy of the Day One plaque gifted to all stations. 

L – R (Clockwise): Puhoi’s new station; Invercargill’s Ball; Alexandra Fire Brigade’s open day. 

Pōwhiri/Welcome for new Chief Executive Rhys Jones – Wellington City Station

On Monday 3 July, we welcomed the new Chief Executive of Fire and Emergency NZ with a pōwhiri at Wellington City Station (see video highlights here). Thanks to National Māori Advisor Piki Thomas, our kapa haka group made up of urban and rural fire people from around the country, and everyone else involved for your work to make this event happen.

As part of the pōwhiri, Rhys was officially ‘handed over’ by his former Defence colleagues, welcomed to his new Fire and Emergency NZ family and presented with ‘Matariki’, a korowai or feather cloak that has been specially commissioned for our new organisation.

After the ceremony, Rhys and I then signed a new Safety, Health and Wellbeing policy commitment with the five unions and associations who represent our people – the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union (NZPFU), United Fire Brigades Association (UFBA), Forest and Rural Fire Association of NZ (FRFANZ), NZ Fire and Rescue Commanders Association (NZFRCA), and the Public Service Association (PSA), acknowledging our shared commitment to ensure our people go home safe and well.

L – R (Clockwise): Rhys Jones; The Fire and Emergency NZ kapa haka group; National Māori Advisor Piki Thomas; NZDF Warrant Officer Tama Andrew farewells Rhys.  


L – R (Clockwise): Attendees at the pōwhiri; Rhys Jones; The signed policy commitment, with representatives from the five unions and associations. 

Board Meeting: Friday 21 July, 2017

At the first meeting of the Fire and Emergency NZ Board on Friday 21 July, we heard an update from Rhys who had just finished the first leg of a regional tour, starting with some urban and rural stations in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. It was great to hear local urban and rural firefighters were keen to get on with the integration process and the Board looks forward to hearing more feedback from Rhys as his tour of the country continues over the next month.

As part of a ‘Day One debrief’, the Board also discussed IT issues and the login problems people have been experiencing with the new system, and the hassle of a long user name combined with ‘’. We know this has been very frustrating for people and the IT team are working hard to reduce the number of logins.

A small group of urban, rural, career and volunteer firefighters are involved in helping to iron out the bugs and IT staff have been sent out to all Regions to work directly with people to resolve their problems and make the system work effectively for everyone. If you continue to have problems with your email or login, please let the IT helpdesk know (0800 374 843). 

Integration Update

With our new organisation established, work now begins on the Integration phase of Fire and Emergency NZ, which will strengthen the service we are delivering to our communities and allow us to provide better support to our frontline. Rhys and senior leaders will be progressing this work and, just as we did in the lead up to 1 July, we will be calling on the advice and experience of our people as we gradually bring urban and rural fire services together over the next three years.

Planning for each of our six strategic priority areas from the Phase 2 Blueprint is now underway. The six priorities are: Developing an integrated organisation and operating model; Safety, health and wellbeing; Resilient Communities; Volunteerism; Risk Reduction; and Leadership across the sector.

Underneath these are around 48 different projects aimed at integrating the organisation and ultimately supporting the frontline.

Fire and Emergency NZ Operating Model

The main effort for the integration programme will be the design and implementation of the new operating model. In other words, how everyone will work together.

The plan for how we co-design and develop the new model in conjunction with our people, unions and associations, and partner organisations is set to be finalised by the end of September. This process will include discussion of areas such as centralised vs. decentralised decision making, flexibility in brigades and fire forces, boundaries, and so on.

Local Advisory Committees

Work to establish Local Advisory Committees (LAC) will continue over the next 12 months. As has been stressed before, these committees will not have any operational authority. Their role will be to provide advice to the Board of Fire and Emergency NZ on their local community’s risks and needs – to ensure we are flexible and responsive to those needs.

Following the success of the two pilots run in Greater Auckland and Mid-South Canterbury this year, informal engagement on LACs will be held around the country between now and Christmas. At this stage we are planning on LAC boundaries being confirmed by July 2018. Membership of these committees will be by Board appointment, and we expect to start calling for nominations once the boundaries are confirmed.

Safety, health and wellbeing

A new safety, health and wellbeing (SHW) online tool is being developed for all Fire and Emergency NZ personnel to use with the help of a Working Group representing interests across the whole organisation. The first part, which includes the recording and investigation of SHW events, will replace the current SHW technology system AERIK. This is planned for national roll-out to all personnel from October to December 2017, so that:

  • they can record work-related injury, illness, exposure and significant near-miss events
  • investigations, and subsequent actions, can be managed at different levels depending on severity and priority
  • standard reporting is available.

Other initiatives to support safe management of contractors, consistent risk and hazard management, and recording of safe actions and safety conversations, are planned to be implemented by June 2018. 

Reducing the admin burden for volunteers

Volunteers have told us that many administration tasks are time-consuming, complex and inefficient. As part of the Volunteer Support Year One initiatives we announced earlier, work is now underway to look at how we can reduce this admin burden, with recommendations due to the Fire and Emergency NZ strategic leadership team in December. 

50 Year Medals 

Congratulations to Don Scott of Tamatea Rural Fire Force, and Selwyn Allred of Methven Fire Brigade, who were awarded 50 Year Medals in June. Thank you Don and Selwyn for your outstanding service and commitment to your communities.

Next Board Meeting

Our next Board meeting on 18 August will be held in Hawke's Bay, as part of a series of regional visits that we will be undertaking over the next year or so. In addition to our meeting, we will be visiting some local brigades and fire forces and will be holding a stakeholder event in the evening. I’ll update you on all this next time.

That’s all for now – look after yourselves and keep up the good work out there.

Hon. Paul Swain
Board Chair, Fire and Emergency New Zealand