New organisation will bring together rural, urban, career and volunteer firefighters. Photo/File
Fire region manager Ron Devlin and Rural regional manager John Sutton said the time was right to integrate their services. "Urban and rural fire services have a close bond already," said Mr Devlin, who has responsibility for urban fire services. "We're going to be building on many years of experience and co-operation."
Mr Sutton said they could see the benefits ahead. "This is going to be positive for fire services and our communities. Our team has responsibility for fire and emergency from Turangi in the south to Coromandel Peninsula in the north, Kawhia in the west, to Tikitiki in the east. "It's a real mix of environments that our people know well. We'll continue doing what we do best. The trucks will still be rolling out the door and our communities can still rely on us to be there when needed," he said.
Mr Devlin said the change wouldn't disrupt the services at all. "People should still call 111 in an emergency. Preventing and responding to emergencies will always be our number one priority."
New Zealand Fire Service Commission chairman Paul Swain said the new organisation would give New Zealand's firefighters the support they needed to protect and help prepare communities now and into the future. "Our firefighters are highly respected and trusted and do a great job already, but their roles are changing all the time. Firefighters once just focused on fire. Now they do a lot more, responding to motor vehicle crashes, medical emergencies, hazardous materials spillages, storms, floods, earthquakes and a wide range of rescue situations."The changes recognise the vital roles of volunteer and career firefighters and the importance of community while addressing long standing issues such as the variable funding of rural fire operations." Mr Swain said these were the biggest changes in decades so they were focused on getting it right. "We will work with our people including their representative unions, associations, and our partners over the next three years as we integrate into one, unified organisation."
Former Chief of Defence Force, Rhys Jones, is Fire and Emergency New Zealand's first chief executive. Paul McGill is the national commander of Urban Fire and Emergency operations and Kevin O'Connor is the national manager of Rural Fire and Emergency operations.
To find out more about the transition to Fire and Emergency New Zealand, visit www.fenzproject.co.nz or www.fireandemergency.nz from July 1.