Bill’s blog: sharing conference content

  Posted on 23rd November 2018 by Nick Cottrell in UFBA blog, UFBA News

At our Conference last weekend we promised to share the content with you so that those who could not make it could access the same information, and the same learnings, inspiration and occasion shared by our delegates and observers. We have a summary page on our website, gallery of images and for the first time we've filmed all parts. You'll find the keynote speakers on our YouTube channel already and the rest will follow shortly. Sadly we can't share the good food and camaraderie with you but rest assured it was exceptional.

I've also included below notes of my speech since this was my opportunity to speak to you all on what I see as important.

Ngā mihi,

Bill Butzbach, CEO UFBA

UFBA CEO Speech Notes 2018 AGM and Conference

Tena koutou katoa

Yesterday's speakers spoke of the future, of strong foundations that beg us all to take advantage of opportunities and make the best use of those opportunities or lose those opportunities. They talked about getting involved and enjoying the journey instead of lamenting about how good the past was…because it wasn’t necessarily better. They talked about alignment, being in the same tent and the major reforms that saw volunteers specified in legislation, but not only in legislation. But also in the directions of the cabinet through their minutes and various published policies.

Paul Swain defined strategy led in the simple terms. The ability to anticipate what’s coming then identifying what to do about it when it arrives or more importantly, how to divert its course if necessary before it arrives. It was about community and people. And Bronnie McIntosh talked about our journey towards respect for others, appreciating our differences and reminding us that our work is a team sport and any suggestion that individuals cannot be included in our sport because they cannot carry out a particular individual task is pretty much nonsense. And she’s spot on. I can honestly say that in my 41 years of service in this sector, I have never had to pitch a ladder on my own, in fact I can remember 3 occasions where I have used a long extension ladder in anger on the fireground. And I speak as someone who has served in the busiest fire stations in New Zealand and in the past 5 years, in a very isolated volunteer brigade.

Today I want to look forward to building on those themes. 

This conference is especially historic as our two Associations recognise 170 years of combined service to our memberships and the communities we belong. We have witnessed the first anniversary of Fire and Emergency New Zealand and the second anniversary of our very close formal working partnership with the Forest & Rural Fire Association of NZ, known more commonly as FRFANZ.  This conference must surely be unique as the first combined conference in our long histories.

At the outset I want to acknowledge the great honour and privilege it is to serve your proud and long-standing Association in the capacity of Chief Executive Officer.

It is my great privilege to lead the service delivery arm of the UFBA, an organisation in good heart and good fettle.

Acknowledgements and recogniton

I want to acknowledge the contribution of many in this room and those no longer serving us, but make special mention of Rick Braddock, previous UFBA Board Chair and George Verry, Previous Chief Executive,  who three years ago worked very quietly but very deliberately, skillfully and effectively in the halls of power within the Beehive and Department Internal Affairs, to strategically  position the UFBA for the future and to promote  the value, support and investment needed to sustain volunteerism in NZ, all well before many other agencies were around the table and before  FENZ was identified as a successor organization for NZ Fire Service, the National Rural Fire Authority (NRFA), and 38 rural fire authorities. Doors were opened, key UFBA strategic advisors and Kevin Ihaka from FRFANZ provided important information and a story to government officials so compelling, building on the strengths and failures of many attempts of reform at home and abroad, the Swain Review of 2012 and your own experiences, to influence a reform programme so comprehensive and far reaching, that each and everyone of us will benefit in time. But most importantly, the communities we represent will be better off in terms of their safety, security, wellbeing and resilience.

I wish to publicly recognise Ceara Owen-Perry whose contribution to our Associations has been immeasurable, a significant leader in her own right, who will soon champion cross sector and internal relationships for Fire and Emergency New Zealand within the office of the Chief Executive. Ceara has unique knowledge, insight and empathy for our sector. This allows her to easily bridge the gaps between all associations, unions and the wider stakeholder groups in our sector such as local government. So, while Ceara will no longer work for UFBA, it is very fortunate she is not lost to the sector. I have great confidence that Ceara will build on the already strong relationships that have formed in our industry. I wish to publicly thank Ceara for her service to our Association and ask you to join with me in congratulating her on her new role with FENZ, starting tomorrow!

And to recognise the UFBA office team who work so hard for you the members, and hold your best interests as sacrosanct, because of the respect they have for you and your calling and their commitment to projects such as the secretary and treasurers workshops, our leadership development programmes, or the fire and rescue cadet project and the Xero accounting package project, our psychological wellbeing workshops and our comprehensive suite of competitive events.

And all of the many volunteers who work at national, regional and local level to make our events a reality, and in other areas to support their colleagues in difficult circumstances.

Connecting with you

In my short tenure as CEO I have sought to get out and about and meet many of you here today, and other members in your communities, with FRFANZ at local brigade and fire force meetings, honours and award ceremonies, Area and District sponsored local leaders meetings, provincial meetings and regional challenges.

I recognize that the great strength of the lead agency in our sector, FENZ, is its presence across NZ communities - from cities to provincial and rural NZ. In Wellington speak, “a dispersed organisational structure”  or as it is called in one of FENZs accountability documents, “an engaged and equipped network”.

Sustaining and strengthening that engaged and equipped network of brigades and fire forces in heartland NZ is critical, so we are able to better plan for and be better equipped to respond to each communities unique risks and needs, for their ongoing resilience.

The UFBA and FRFANZ have a vital role to play, in partnership with FENZ and others in the sector, in sustaining and strengthening that network... our brigades and fire forces.

To do that effectively, we are committed to representing the membership in strategic national forums in central government, with other emergency services and sector partners as much as continuing to be out there, in community, working directly with the membership, listening to your ideas and issues, gauging the mood of the nation on matters of key importance to you, and helping to strengthen relationships.

And we have to do that on your turf, in your patch, on your home ground.

In my experience, too much vital information and intelligence can get lost in translation on its way to and from Wellington.

This is a time of great change for our sector, a time of opportunity, and a time for increased risk if we are not connected to, or negatively distracted from continuing to influence the sector and FENZ decisions that affect you, the membership. So my ongoing commitment to you is to engage you at every opportunity we can to keep connected with the realities of daily life in the patch, as much as making sure that UFBA and FRFANZ are both strategic and connected in with nationally important organisations and forums. This is my first pledge to you.

But, our small office team of ten cannot possibility do this on our own. We need your help. In the next 12 months, together, we must continue to reinvigorate and strengthen this network. For many reasons, it would be sensible to align that network with the proposed 15 FENZ sub- regional boundaries. One important reason is to be ready to interact effectively with the Local Advisory Committees once established across NZ.

Strengthening this network is a key area of focus for the UFBA, the Provincial Associations and FRFANZ over the coming twelve-months. This is a critically important piece of work. Building that network.

At this stage I also want acknowledge the special responsibility on our combined Associations at this critical time in the evolution of NZ’s fire and emergency services.

I will say a little bit more about this responsibility later in my speech but at this time I just want to reflect on the double edged nature of that special responsibility.

Advocating and representing

As a membership association our first responsibility is of course to advocate for, support and protect the interests of all Association members, career, volunteer, urban, rural, industrial and that the interests of our members and any gains made must not be at the expense of any specific group within our membership.

But I am also reminded of why we join brigades and fire forces in the first place – to serve our communities.  

In my view that ethic of service to our communities compels us to play a positive, professional constructive, pro-active role with FENZ, and in our sector, over the next few years.

We need to continue to work collaboratively with FENZ and other Associations and Unions to strengthen this new organization, Fire and Emergency NZ, born out of the 40 organisations that amalgamated to form FENZ on 1 July 2017. The UFBA and FRFANZ with its wide membership base is well placed to do this, we are the only organization which combines all firefighters under one united umbrella, paid, rural, industry, defence and volunteers are all part of the collective voice that we represent.

It is only by taking on that important responsibility we can be more certain our communities will benefit from stronger fire and emergency services possible. 

I acknowledge the tension that may exist between the two responsibilities. I am confident however, that we can fulfill both responsibilities without compromise.

Frankly, our collective thinking must continue to transition from self-righteous stakeholder standing on our principles to a committed co-owner, along with our partner associations and unions and with FENZ, taking responsibility for achieving stronger outcomes for our members and our communities.   

So my second pledge to UFBA members is for us to work with FRFANZ to ensure we as a combined association maintain our central and more pivotal place in the influencing FENZ and sector decision making as well as supporting our brigades and fire forces with a range of quality services.

It is completely consistent with the intent of the Fire and Emergency NZ legislation.

UFBA and FRFANZ and many of its members have been working in collaboration with FENZ on many projects such as the Health Safety and Wellbeing Strategy, Volunteer Strategy, Risk Reduction Strategy, Reward and Recognition project and many more

I see this continuing!

A Quick Look Back

I don’t want to spend a lot of time reviewing the events of the past year. Its been a very busy year in business as usual and our annual report provides testimony to this. We have achieved our agreed goals and in many cases exceeded them and all within the approved budget agreed with the FENZ Board.

What stands out for me this year has been our focus in 4 key areas:

Thoughts Post Day 1.(1 July 2017)

We’ve made a great start.

Relationships have been formed that I would not have thought possible 5 years ago. Associations and Unions have worked positively together and found solutions to complex issues and challenges.

But in my view the really hard work still lies ahead.  The rubber is yet to hit the road.

We have to continue to work together to design the detail of the new way of working (FENZ Operating Model) which is really a sector model because of its more outward focus.

Work has started on potentially contentious issues:

And you need to be across this. We will ensure you are.

Finally, I wish to leave you with these messages:

In conclusion

Thank you for giving up your time to represent your brigades, fire forces, and your communities in this important sector forum

We wish all delegates a constructive conference. We wish you all a safe return home

Look forward to mingling and meeting with you during the remainder of this wonderful event and to working with you all over the years ahead.

Thank you

Bill Butzbach, CEO UFBA

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