• Jack Elder
Civil Defence

Thank you very much for the opportunity to be with you today and to able to lend my support to this next phase of the Home Safe Home Campaign...tackling the most common cause of house fire in New Zealand, the kitchen fire.

We are shortly to see graphic evidence by way of the television commercial of the damage that can be caused so quickly when oil is left unattended heating on the stove. And of course Mr and Mrs MacDonald have experienced at first hand the reality of being caught in such a fire.

What we're witnessing today is further evidence of the way the face of fire has changed and why it is so important to shift the focus to fire prevention and the upskilling of the community.

The Government is determined to see a modern approach to the management of fire risk in New Zealand. We are tackling this on many fronts as Roger Estall can testify.

Just yesterday we were at Canterbury University where pioneering research is being carried out into the behaviour, control and prevention of fire.

We saw the terrifying effects of fire on modern furnishing. (You may have seen something of it on the national television bulletins last night).

We've just experienced two of our worst years ever in terms of fire deaths. Most of them have occurred in ordinary domestic dwellings. A common denominator in many of the fires was rapid and silent fire development as a result of combustibility of furnishings.

Today we're focusing on another cause, the kitchen. The Fire Service is working in partnership with many people who have a stake in fire prevention. Yesterday, as I mentioned, the Masters students at Canterbury. Today, a wide range of groups including of course AMI, Housing New Zealand, BRANZ, Standards NZ, the Building Industry Authority....and of course the general public. That's you and me.

We're already seeing benefits from the modernisation of the Fire Service. New technology is better equipping the Fire Service to fight fires. Indeed the Fire Service Commission is determined this will be done even better. But to minimise deaths and property damage we have to attack the root of the problem and that means reducing the number of fires.

This is not an abrogation of responsibilities by the Fire Service. But it does recognise that while there are things only the Fire Service can do, equally there are things only the public can do.

We all need to take ownership and responsibility for managing fire risk at home. The Fire Service's role in this instance is to educate and motivate the community to take more responsibility for fire safety.

This campaign will remind us of the hazards that are ever present and the simple steps we must take to avoid tragedy.

The information kits contain just a few stories of the devastating effects of home fires. Let's all do our bit to prevent such tragedies in the future.

I congratulate all those who' re playing their part in this very important education campaign.