Government Committed To Modernising Fire Service

  • Jack Elder
Civil Defence

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Jack Elder, has reaffirmed the Government's commitment to modernising the Fire Service. Restructuring plans are currently on hold pending a further hearing in the Employment Court

In a speech to the Auckland Provincial Fire Brigades' Association conference at Whitianga, Mr Elder said one of the key objectives of the modernisation process is to reduce fire-related deaths in residential properties by 50 per cent.

"We're still losing too many lives to fire," Mr Elder said. "Out of 48 fire deaths last year, some 32 were in structure fires.

"It is disappointing therefore that, in terms of our paid workforce, which undoubtedly includes many firefighters with a genuine commitment to the Commission's goal of reducing the number of fires and the consequences of those fires, we have not yet achieved the changes necessary to get that reduction in fire-related deaths."

Mr Elder was unable to attend the conference and his speech was delivered by the Chairman of the Fire Service Commission, Roger Estall.

Mr Elder criticised the activities of some paid firefighters who are opposed to the restructuring plans.

"The New Zealand Fire Service is fundamentally a volunteer service," Mr Elder said. "I am always impressed by the commitment of volunteer brigade members and I have been disappointed to see recent incidents in some cities of attempts by some paid personnel to intimidate volunteers. They do their fellow, more professionally minded paid staff and of course the volunteers, a great disservice.

"It is unfortunate but inevitable that the changes will have profound effects on some individuals but many people in New Zealand work places deal with change without that type of reaction."