Timeline

Founded in 1878, the UFBA has acquired many rich traditions over its lifetime. Get a glimpse of the historical events that have shaped the UFBA into the organisation it is today.

1874
Firemen exempt from Jury Service (exemption lifted in 1982).
1878
Founding UFBA meeting in Christchurch 17 December 1878. The nine founding brigades were Christchurch, Dunedin, Kaiapoi, Littleton, Mornington, Port Chalmers, Rangiora, Timaru and Waimate.
1880
First Annual Conference in Dunedin. 26 of the 36 brigades in New Zealand belonged to the UFBA at this time. 23 of those were represented at the conference. At this conference, the 5-year medal was introduced, but the certificate was only discussed.
1882
First UFBA Valour Medal Awarded.
1885
The first National Waterway Challenge was held in Dunedin. The winner was Napier.
1885
First 3 Year certificates were printed and awarded. Certificates were ordered in 1885 and received in 1887.
1887
First technical lecture was given at a conference, delivered by Wellington’s Captain R. Page and titled “The Duties of a Fireman”.
1889
One of three years the Annual Conference was not held. The others were 1922 and 1932. An AGM was still held in these years, but not a full conference.
1891
UFBA Gold Star introduced, recognising 25 years of service. The first recipient was Captain T.D. Cummins of Wanganui.
1892
Accident Assurance Society formed and was registered under the Friendly Societies Act (1882). It was disbanded in 1984.
1900
Two UFBA representatives selected to attend the Fire Congress in Paris.
1900
After the AGM, it was agreed that the UFBA rule relating to musters would be suspended for 12 months so far as it affected firefighters serving in South Africa. In 1901, this was further clarified to mean all such members to receive full credit for attendance in their respective brigades while on active military duty. This was first done during the Bull War, and carried on for every subsequent war.
1901
UFBA Funeral Ritual introduced, revised several times since, as customs change.
1903
First exhibition of firefighting equipment staged pre-UFBA Conference in Napier.
1906
First Fire Brigades Act – sets up local administration of brigades and their funding. The UFBA had fought for 25 years to get this enacted.
1913
Benevolent Fund formed.
1918
World War I ends. UFBA Conference honours 151 NX Firemen killed in action.
1921
UFBA establishes outlet selling fire equipment (hose and couplings, etc.) to member brigades.
1926
UFBA recommends that there be a suitable standard design for “motor fire appliances”.
1931
NZ Fire Brigade Officers and Members Institute formed and incorporated. Name changed to NZ Fire Brigades Institute in 1952.
1937
Hand reel events at competitions are replaced by motor events. Fire engines are now more common, and a standard “motor hose box” is to be designed.
1942
UFBA Conference delegates see demonstrations of how to best deal with incendiary bombs (Wellington).
1945
World War II ends, UFBA honours 60 firemen from New Zealand killed in action.
1947
Forty-one people die in a fire in complex of buildings used as Ballantyne’s Department Store in Christchurch. The resulting enquiry sets a blueprint for fires services in NZ.
1949
Fire Brigades Act. The UFBA has a representative on the new Fire Service Council, introduced to improve the efficiency of fire brigades throughout the land.
1951
The UFBA publishes its first news magazine “NZ Fire Service Review”. The publication survived until 1995.
1951
First Chief Fire Officer (T.A. Varley) introduced as a direct consequence of the Ballantyne’s enquiry.
1951
Redesigned Life Honorary Member medal introduced. First medal was introduced in 1885.
1952
Nationwide standard uniform, ranks, and badges introduced to the Fire Service. This was as a result of T.A. Varley finding out that every brigade did its own thing
1953
Instantaneous couplings adopted for competitions, replacing threaded connections.
1955
Queen’s Fire Service Medal introduced.
1956
First Patron elected (C.A. Osborne, Onehunga).
1956
President’s chain of office donated by the Fire Service Council.
1972
Fire Services Act.
1975
Fire Service Act. A new NZ Fire Service Commission nationalises fire services, abolishing Fire Boards and local administration. Up to this time, the UFBA was the only national body representing fire brigades.
1976
New Zealand Fire Brigades’ Long Service and Good Conduct Medal introduced.
1979
UFBA Centennial Conference held in Dunedin: delegates return to the venue of the first Annual Conference.
1983
New Fire Service badge issued. The eight-pointed star is retained with a crown surmounted (UFBA Gold Star included).
1996
Queen’s Fire Service Medal no longer awarded, Fire Service personnel now included in general list of Royal Honours.
1997
First Road Crash Rescue Challenge.
1999
First Breathing Apparatus Challenge. Because of unresolved difficulty, this event has not been held since 2003.
2001
International Year of the Volunteer medal issued (UFBA/NZFS initiative).
2004
125th Annual Conference held at Dunedin.
2004
National Driving Challenge introduced.
2008
George Verry joined as Chief Executive Officer. Previously the Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Rugby Union and Master Plumbers Association.
2011
Hosted the World & Australasian Road Rescue Challenge in Upper Hutt, Wellington, in conjunction with ARRO - with teams from as far away as the UK.
2011
Launch of the UFBA Leadership & Governance workshops.
2012
Independent Review of the Fire Service by the Fire Review Panel August to December 2012 for the Minister of Internal Affairs. Report published December 2012.
2013
135th Annual Conference held at Auckland.
2014
First NZFBI Scholarship awarded to QFF Judith Stanley for a youth study tour in Melbourne and district in August with the Country Fire Authority.
2014
SFF Scott Shadbolt was awarded a UFBA Valour Medal and 83 firefighters received UFBA Valour Certificates in October for their exceptional bravery saving human lives in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 Canterbury earthquake. Only the fourth time the medal has been awarded: 2014, 1908, 1891 and 1882. See First time in over 100 years
2014
136th Annual Conference in Tauranga. See a summary at 2014 Conference in brief
2014
UFBA commissioned Esperance Capital in November to provide an estimated valuation of the volunteer firefighter contribution to urban and rural communities in New Zealand - an annual value of $529 million.
2015
On 27 May, the Government released a Fire Services Review Discussion Document to review and reform the structure, funding, legislation and organisation of urban and rural fire services. After extensive consultation with brigades and individuals, UFBA completed a well-received submission on behalf of members. Full details are at UFBA Fire Services Review Submission
2015
A Youth in Emergency Services (YES) collaboration between UFBA and the Ministry of Youth Development, delivered training through FETS (Fire & Emergency Training Solutions) to students aged 15-19 years old. See Youth Emergency Response Training
2015
137th Annual Conference in Wellington. See a summary at 2015 Conference in Brief. Hon Peter Dunne, Minister of Internal Affairs, announced the future structure of the Fire Service at the Conference Opening. See New fire services structure
2016
Launch of the inaugural UFBA North and South Island Waterway Challenges to complement the National Challenge that takes every two years. See Expanded Waterway Challenge boosts skills
2016
On Anzac Day, we remembered the contributions our firefighters made in the First World War 100 years ago including Feilding's Fireman Alfred John Shoebridge. See We remember dedicated firefighters
2016
The Fire and Emergency New Zealand Bill was introduced on 30 June to set up a single organisation responsible for urban and rural fire services. See details at FENZ legislation introduced
2016
UFBA and the Forest and Rural Fire Association (FRFANZ) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 7 July to make sure fire brigades and rural fire forces have a single united voice. See UFBA and FRFANZ sign a MoU
2016
UFBA and FRFANZ submitted a joint submission on the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Bill on 18 August to the Government Administration Committee. See UFBA and FRFANZ Submission FENZ Bill
2016
138th Annual Conference in Christchurch. Historic for being the last Conference under the NZFS regime, the first following the UFBA/FRFANZ MoU and for a better reflection of the diversity in our communities through the record number of delegates. See 2016 Conference in Brief
2017
UFBA ensured the NZFSC, NZFS and FENZ Transition Team listened to the strong, united voice of all brigades—career, volunteer, urban, rural and industrial—during the transition to FENZ. See more on the work with FENZ on co-design projects and the positive outcomes of recommendations of the joint UFBA/FRFANZ joint submission on the FENZ Bill at Taking action for all brigades
2017
The Fire and Emergency New Zealand Bill was passed in Parliament on 4 May. Liaison between UFBA and FRFANZ continued to grow. See UFBA/FRFANZ collaboration
2017
From Day One of Fire and Emergency New Zealand on 1 July, individual volunteers could access advocacy and support services provided by UFBA/FRFANZ for any dispute, complaint or conflict, free of charge. See Member advocacy and support services
2017
George Verry retired as Chief Executive Officer - see We farewell George Verry. Chief Fire Officer of Martinborough Volunteer Fire Brigade, Bill Butzbach was appointed as Chief Executive Officer - see Bill Butzbach appointed
2017
UFBA hosted the Australasian Rescue Challenge (ARC17) in Hamilton with Kiwi teams taking out eleven accolades including Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade as Australasian Overall Champions. See Kiwis take out major placings
2017
A major milestone was reached at the 13th UFBA Leadership and Governance Workshop in September—over 200 personnel have graduated from this highly-valued course. See Leadership and Governance Workshops strengthen skills
2017
Launch of the UFBA Leading Psychological Wellbeing Workshop with a pilot course in October. See Supporting Psychological Wellbeing of firefighters
2017
139th Annual Conference in Auckland. Historic for being the first since Day One of Fire and Emergency New Zealand on 1 July and with major constitutional remits passed including one on a proposed merger with our partner FRFANZ. See 2017 Conference: Showing the way forward
2017
UFBA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Volunteering New Zealand (VNZ) at Conference in Auckland to record the intention of both parties to work collaboratively to benefit volunteers and volunteering in New Zealand. See UFBA and VNZ sign a MoU
2017
UFBA/FRFANZ were extensively involved in collaborative development of the Fire and Emergency NZ Blueprint 2017-20 with Fire and Emergency NZ along with other stakeholders including associations, unions and the Department of Internal Affairs.

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