George Verry was appointed as UFBA Chief Executive Officer in September 2008 at a time when the organisation was experiencing serious financial concerns.
With his background as a partner in a major Chartered Accountants firm and associated business knowledge, the UFBA quickly regained financial stability and has since been in a very safe pair of hands.
After nine years in this position, George advised the UFBA Directors at a board meeting on 22 May of his intention to step down at a date to be agreed after Fire and Emergency New Zealand was in place.
Following the appointment of Bill Butzbach as the new UFBA Chief Executive Officer, it was time for our Board, Officers, staff and partners to farewell George.
Farewell from the Board
At the board meeting on 17 July, the Board presented a mere pounamu to George as a gift to recognise his dedicated and steadfast service to the UFBA and our membership.
As the mere originated from Ngāi Tahu, Vice President Joe Manihera gave a poroporoaki presentation based on the six values of Ngāi Tahu as personified in George.
- Whanaungatanga (Family) – foster and maintain relationships within the organisation and within the community
- Manaakitanga (Care) – respect each other in accordance with tikanga (customs)
- Tohungatanga (Expertise) – the pursuit of knowledge and ideas that will strengthen and grow relationships
- Kaitiakitanga (Stewardship) – work actively to protect the values important to organisations and communities
- Tikanga (Customs) – our actions are appropriate and acknowledged in outcomes
- Rangatiratanga (Leadership) – maintaining a high level of integrity in both our actions and decision making.
Our thanks to Joe for giving this most appropriate poroporoaki.
From left: UFBA Chief Executive Officer Bill Butzbach, Director Judith Stanley, Director Russell Anderson, Chair Rick Braddock, retiring Chief Executive Officer George Verry, Vice President Joe Manihera, Deputy Chair Glenn Williams and President Alan Kittelty.
A grand farewell at Parliament
Minister of Internal Affairs Hon Peter Dunne very kindly hosted a farewell function for George at the Grand Hall, Parliament on Tuesday 25 July.
From left in the Grand Hall, Parliament: UFBA President Alan Kittelty, Chief Executive Officer Bill Butzbach, Hon Peter Dunne, Chair Rick Braddock, Vice President Joe Manihera, retiring Chief Executive Officer George Verry, Deputy Chair Glenn Williams, Director Judith Stanley and Director Russell Anderson.
Welcome from Rick Braddock
We thank George for his hard work, vision, tenacity and commitment
UFBA Board Chair Rick Braddock thanked Mr Dunne for hosting the event and welcomed guests including Hon Jo Goodhew, MP for Rangitata, Adrian Rurawhe, MP for Te Tai Hauāuru, UFBA Patron Dame Margaret Bazley, Fire and Emergency New Zealand Board Chair Hon Paul Swain and Directors Nikki Crauford and Peter Drummond, Fire and Emergency New Zealand National Commander Urban Paul McGill, National Manager Rural Kevin O’Connor, Strategic Leadership Team members, Integration Director David Strong, Integration Engagement Lead Sue Sherburd and the UFBA Board, Officers and staff.
Rick said there are few people in the country that can wander unannounced into any town at any time and be instantly recognised as a trusted friend and ally by that town’s community leaders.
“These people are special,” he said. “George Verry is one of those people.
“During his nine years as Chief Executive Officer, George steadfastly led, advocated for, and supported the interests of 537 fire brigades and rural forces including 388 volunteer brigades.
“It is with a huge amount of appreciation that the Board thanks George most sincerely for the role he played in managing the business of the UFBA.
“It is very appropriate that we record these thanks just a few weeks after the creation of Fire and Emergency New Zealand and whose legislative background was so influenced through George’s hard work, vision, tenacity and commitment.
“I have no doubt that without George’s support and at times uncompromising attitude shown in defending his brigades and, in particular, his 12,000 volunteer firefighters, this new piece of legislation would ever have made in through this House let alone be the excellent piece of work that it has become and that we are all very proud of.”
Rick concluded George would continue to be warmly welcomed into every town in New Zealand for many years to come.
“This is a true sign of the respect shown to George as a community leader and as one who understands the needs of communities and those volunteer and career firefighters who make them safe places to live.”
From Hon Peter Dunne
I acknowledge George’s outstanding contribution to the work of the UFBA and the wider interests of all New Zealand firefighters
Mr Dunne said George was a great advocate for the UFBA.
“He was widely respected, and his concerns were always listened to.
“George was unfailingly courteous, but at the same time very clear in his advocacy of the UFBA’s position on matters of concern.
“We could not have made the progress we have with the establishment of Fire and Emergency New Zealand without the active support and encouragement of George – I knew from the outset that his support would be critical to the success of the project, and I was delighted with the constructive approach that he took throughout all our discussions.
“I doubt we could have progressed as far as we have without that.
“George has left the UFBA in very good heart indeed – a respected and highly organised advocate on behalf of volunteer firefighters throughout New Zealand.
“I always enjoyed my discussions with George – and will miss those – but I acknowledge his outstanding contribution to the work of the UFBA in particular, and the wider interests of all New Zealand firefighters, and wish him well for the future.”
From Peter Drummond
George can feel proud that the relationship between UFBA and Fire and Emergency New Zealand has been strengthened
Fire and Emergency New Zealand Board Director and UFBA Past Chair Peter Drummond said George had an uncanny ability to maximise output from his UFBA team, as well as being a great communicator with brigades.
“There were many interesting times at the first annual conference George attended, with countless remits, and general questions as to why the UFBA financials were in difficulty,” he said. “George’s sage operating style, hard work, and straight shooting enabled members to be fully informed.
“The UFBA was then well on its way to performing above expectations.
“In 2011/2012, George introduced the now well-established UFBA Leadership and Governance Workshop programme from which over 185 highly motivated new leaders have emerged.
“In the 2012 Swain report, George and his team presented a strong submission with a meaningful contribution.
“From a Fire and Emergency New Zealand perspective, the MOU signed on 7 July 2016 with FRFANZ was a critical moment in the move to amalgamate urban and rural.
“George was instrumental in that – he and his team demonstrated a new way of thinking that was a prime example of the new Fire and Emergency New Zealand mandate.
“The strong relationship between UFBA and the previous New Zealand Fire Service at the UFBA conference last year symbolised the importance of the new relationship post 1 July 2017.
“This helped address the concerns after the UFBA name was not specifically mentioned in the new legislation, it symbolised trust and confidence between the parties and marked the importance of the UFBA role in support and advocacy services for volunteers, as per the new legislation.
Peter added George also ushered through the new interim dispute resolution process, which is a new approach under Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
“George can feel proud that the relationship between UFBA and Fire and Emergency New Zealand has been strengthened for the future.”
From George Verry
Our members are truly an inspiring bunch of people with an incredible passion for protecting and looking after their communities
George thanked the guests for their very kind words and for the excellent relationships he had had with them over the years.
He noted his countback calculation shows he was in employment for 58.5 years with five major employers – New Zealand Treasury, Ernst & Young, his dream job for six years as Chief Executive of the NZ Rugby Union and nine years with Master Plumbers, an association of 650 businesses.
“From there it was on to our UFBA.
“In my long time in the workforce I have had a succession of brilliant roles involving amazing experiences and great people.
“I have greatly enjoyed the challenges these roles have brought but I am particularly proud of what has been achieved by the UFBA.
“We have enjoyed some great successes – UFBA has been a great ride for me because of the people I worked with and the people we work with – that is our members.
“They are truly an inspiring bunch of people with an incredible passion for protecting and looking after their communities.
“Overall we not only managed significant change but continued to be ‘future focused and strategic thinking’
“I believe we are very strongly placed for the future.
“Our progress has been underpinned by very strong governance, led by experienced Chairs in Peter Drummond and Rick Braddock, each of whom has provided invaluable experience and expertise – in short, great support, nous and knowledge. These two have been supported by strong, positive Directors.
“I acknowledge Foundation Directors Ric Carlyon and Jane Huria (pictured). These people have excellent judgement.
“Add to that, wise heads as Patrons – Emrys Evans, Garry Stanley and Dame Margaret Bazley.
“I particularly salute the enthusiastic and passionate UFBA Office team of Ceara, Jane, Loralee, Hayley, Tearo, Kirsten, Julia, Megan and Victoria.”
George said he feels very pleased and confident about UFBA accomplishments and progress through the transition period of Fire and Emergency New Zealand. He acknowledged the excellent relationship he and the UFBA enjoyed with Minister Peter Dunne.
However, George counsels it will take a real focus and a strong will to create the reality we are seeking as set out in the blueprints.
“To all of you out there, I thank you for your friendship and support and I look forward to you keeping me in touch with our great organisation.
“And to my successor, Bill, I wish you the very best – I know you will do well.”
Kia Kaha Kia Kotahi Rā
Our strength is in our unity
From Jane Huria
George leaves a significant legacy with the establishment of the UFBA Leadership and Governance course
“Leadership throughout fire and emergency services is critical.
“George leaves a significant legacy in this area with the establishment of the UFBA Leadership and Governance programme - 185 members have given up their time to participate in the two and a half day course and their feedback is consistently positive.
“George's expertise, understanding of people, his gentle but firm manner and his sense of humour will be missed.”
Major accomplishments of the UFBA during George’s tenure
At his farewell, George listed these major accomplishments achieved by the UFBA over the last nine years.
- Secured an outstanding level of engagement with our members
- Attained sound financial stability
- Regained credibility with key stakeholders
- Grown our leadership resources hugely
- Enhanced our membership services
- Strengthened our advocacy role
- Developed strategic partnerships
- Strongly represented members through major fire and emergency reforms.
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