Broad support for changes to our fire services

  • Peter Dunne
Internal Affairs

A clear message for change to the way our fire services are structured has emerged following the extensive consultation around the government’s Fire Service Review discussion document. While it is evident communities value the work of our fire services, they also want them to be fit for purpose in 21st century New Zealand. 

More than 230 submissions were received from individuals or on behalf of groups such as brigades, volunteers, local authorities or other emergency services. The discussion document, released at the end of May, asked for public feedback on ways to improve support for firefighters, reflect local needs, and enhance the governance of fire services.

“Fire services are such an integral part of our communities, especially in rural New Zealand, so it’s not surprising that people have responded with thoughtful, constructive feedback on how best to achieve these objectives”, Mr Dunne said.

During the consultation Mr Dunne met firefighters from around New Zealand, along with local councils, forest owners, farmers, and community representatives.

“The consultation meetings and the submissions have together sent a strong message in favour of change. That understanding of the need to refocus the way these services operate runs right through the different sectors of our fire services – rural and urban, volunteers and career firefighters, small towns and big cities. 

“More importantly, this Review has prompted excellent dialogue about the things that make our fire services one of the most respected and trusted public services in New Zealand”, said Mr Dunne.

Themes that came up at the consultation meetings and in the submissions emphasised the importance of strong links between the fire services and their communities, the need for strong support for volunteers, effective service delivery and options for improving funding sources.

“Every community in New Zealand has different conditions and circumstances that must be taken into account.  Many have come up with local innovations and local responses to how fire services are delivered in their area. I expect a number of these will be included in the recommendations I will be taking to Cabinet. 

“I am also keen to keep stakeholders involved as we work through the best way to achieve greater coordination and integration, and better support for our firefighters. In this regard consultation on this issue will be ongoing”, said Mr Dunne.

The formal submissions received to date will be made available on the Department of Internal Affairs website once they have been analysed. 

Mr Dunne will take a paper to Cabinet for decision by the end of the year that encapsulates the main themes identified through this consultation process. He expects that legislation will be introduced into the House as soon as possible next year. The public will be able to make submissions during the Select Committee process.