Board Update - September 2017

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Board Update - September 2017

Recently I travelled to Opotiki to attend a 50 Year Medal celebration for Chief Fire Officer Vic Carter. It was a great evening, as we celebrated 50 years of outstanding service to the community. Then in the early hours of the morning I was woken up by the station siren.

Taneatua Brigade members at the house fire in Kutarere

I called into Ohope Volunteer Fire Brigade the next day, who were in the middle of re-commissioning their appliance after returning from the cause for that siren, a house fire in Kutarere that they attended with back up from Opotiki and Taneatua fire brigades, and a water tanker from Greerton. The house was pretty much destroyed, however the occupant was able to get out safely thanks to the early warning provided by a smoke alarm – just one example of many that smoke alarms really do save lives.

Well done to our teams for another great response on behalf of the community.

Canada deployment returns home

NZ firefighters dousing hot spots in British Columbia

The 80 New Zealanders deployed to help with British Columbia’s worst fire season on record arrived home safe and well this month after a five week deployment. We’d like to commend all Fire and Emergency, Department of Conservation, and Forestry and other contractors who were on the deployment for a job well done.

Deputy Principal Rural Fire Officers Allison Ludlow and Carrie Lakin were interviewed by Radio NZ on their return, and you can read what it was like for them here

Safety, health and wellbeing

The Board met with all five Region Managers Rural (RMRs) this month to get their view on the state of safety, health and wellbeing for rural people around the country. We were given a good overview of how the risks associated with rural firefighting can be different from urban, for example, the risks associated with coordinating bulldozers and helicopters from multiple external contractors when fighting large vegetation fires.

It’s clear that approaches vary across the country but as one organisation we now have the opportunity to address that and ensure that all our people have access to a similar level of safety, health and wellbeing support.

Fire and Emergency is working with our unions and associations to develop safety, health and wellbeing initiatives over the next three years, following the joint endorsement statement we signed in July to this fundamentally important work.

Members of the Safety Health and Wellbeing (SHW) Working Group, which includes union and association representatives and the Fire and Emergency SHW Team will be visiting our people in the regions over the coming weeks to distribute a summary of the commitment we signed and talk about the new five-year SHW Strategy.

People will have the opportunity to hear what is new, to talk about things and ask questions, and see how we can all contribute to building a safer and healthier work environment for ourselves, the people we work alongside and the community.

Pou Takawaenga Māori / Māori Liaison team

Fire and Emergency New Zealand at Te Wiki o te Reo Māori Parade in Wellington

This month’s Board meeting occurred during Te Wiki o te Reo Māori / Māori Language Week. We had an update from Pou Herenga Māori / National Māori Advisor Piki Thomas on Fire and Emergency’s Māori Liaison team / Pou Takawaenga Māori and the work they do to help the organisation connect with Māori communities. This includes fire safety promotion and education in te reo Māori, maintaining local iwi relationships, providing training in tikanga Māori or Māori customs, and being on-call to provide karakia / blessings at or after incidents.  

Piki and the team do a fantastic job but Māori are still overrepresented when it comes to fire injuries and fatalities. The importance of Fire and Emergency’s relationship with at risk communities will be a big focus of our fire risk reduction strategy, which will be developed in partnership with our people and communities over the next three years.

Planning for the Integration phase: July 2017 - 2020

Next month we expect to update you on our planning for delivering on the six integration priorities for the next three years – having an integrated organisation and operating model; safety health and wellbeing; resilient communities; risk reduction, volunteerism; and leadership across the sector.

Year One volunteer support initiatives and recruitment update

Since the last update, additional roles have been recruited to better support volunteers as part of the Year One Support initiatives:

  • 13 additional Volunteer Support Officer (VSO) roles, including 11 full-time positions, have been filled.
  • Seven of the 12 additional region-based urban trainer positions have been filled where the greatest need has been identified. These roles are to assist brigades with their training needs locally, specifically around operational performance and leadership progression by ensuring they have sufficient drivers and pump operators, and are trained with the skills and knowledge associated with rank.
  • Five new region-based Rural Training Coordinators have been appointed and are working alongside their urban colleagues to identify local rural training needs and to share solutions that work for volunteers. This includes identifying training gaps for rural fire forces and personnel, how training is currently provided, and identifying best ways of meeting training needs for both fire forces and brigades as we progress.
  • Three new personnel to support urban brigades and rural fire forces with recruiting volunteers have been appointed. Support with recruitment can be accessed via (urban) or

A full list of the Year One volunteer initiatives underway can be found on the Portal here.

Supporting voluntary rural fire forces

Fire and Emergency is now making annual grants to voluntary rural fire forces (VRFFs) for the first time – similar to those made for urban volunteer brigades, with more than $1.62 million allocated this financial year.

VRFFs can use the grants for expenses not covered by the organisation, including special events, recognising members’ services, attending conferences and paying membership subscriptions.

50 Year Medals

Congratulations to John Leighton (Porirua), Jack Winwood (Okaihau), James Ritchie (Whakatane), Vic Carter (Opotiki), and James Shaw (Arrowtown) who all received their 50 Year Medals this month. Thank you all for your outstanding service and commitment to your brigades and communities.

Kāti rā mo tēnei wā.
(That’s all for now)