In 2017, unanimous approval was given by members at the respective UFBA and FRFANZ AGM’s to propose a merger of both Associations. The recent co-design roadshows were an important part of progressing the members’ mandate for change on behalf of the Boards, and to ensure we reflect your input and thoughts on a representative association that combines the membership and assets of the UFBA and FRFANZ.
We are grateful for contributions made by our diverse membership who came to the workshops, which included a number of FENZ Area leaders - Leadership in action I say. It’s great to see you supporting your local Brigades and your Association!
The ideas generated by participants were very informative and indicative of strong preferences for what a draft constitution for a merged UFBA and FRFANZ might look like. The process identified the very best features of both Associations for inclusion and importantly, introduced new and better thinking that will position a merged Association to serve its enlarged membership base in the integrated Fire and Emergency environment.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand provides its essential services through our membership out of more than 600 stations, depots and offices throughout the country. The vast number of locations, our widely dispersed membership and our fixed resources made it impossible to be everywhere, though we put our best foot forward to get broad coverage. We were especially grateful for those individuals who travelled more that 100km to be involved, which speaks volumes for the importance our members place on the Association’s affairs.
Supported by members of the UFBA Board, FRFANZ Committee and Provincial Leaders, we completed a marathon of 25 meetings around the country between 30th May and 26th July. Locations ranged from Mangonui in the North to Bluff in the South, from Taradale in the East to Hokitika in the rural West. Average attendance exceeded 20 with most meetings comprising a mix of “urban” and rural” members. Notably, over 45 attended the meeting in Turangi and every brigade and a number of fire forces in the far North came along to Mangonui. Overall, we met a representative sample of the wider membership base of both associations.
At each workshop we made a follow up commitment to provide a summary of the key themes and views of the membership after the roadshow, along with a copy of the presentation we used. A copy of the slides can be accessed below. The themes and views from all the feedback have been incorporated into the draft rules for a combined new Association, which is now before the Board pending release for formal consultation with the entire membership before they finalise the document.
A summary of feedback in key areas:
Association Name. We proposed the merged association adopt the name Emergency Services Association of NZ (or ESANZ for short). Arguments in favour of this name included acknowledging the broader non-fire mandate of the new regime and the possibility of admitting members from other emergency service providers in the future. Objections to it included likely concern from other agencies over a pre-emptive grab of “emergencies”, failure to honour our “fire” heritage and failure to leverage the brand equity built up over 140 years of the UFBA. The majority view was that the words “united” and “fire” should be retained in the name and the principles of merging all fire services together was important.
Purposes / Objectives. We proposed a range of purposes that broadly reflected the purposes set out in the current UFBA and FRFANZ constitutions (advocacy, service recognition, support for Provincial Associations, welfare, skills development etc) together with some more specific purposes such as holding FENZ to account for improving its support to volunteers and running a national cadet programme. Feedback indicated broad support for these purposes but suggested a need to express them with care so as not to preclude other purposes in future. There was overwhelming support to maintain the current honours and awards systems. We also received specific advice on extending the purposes to include commercial operations (card discount schemes for members and commercial training and competitions for non-members).
Membership. UFBA membership is comprised primarily of “urban” volunteer and career brigades described in the constitution as “Fire Brigade Members”. In recent years the definition of Fire Brigade members has been extended to include Voluntary Rural Fire Forces. The UFBA constitution also provides for Life Members and Associate Members (which include Provincial Associations, Rural Fire Authorities and certain other organisations with interests in common with the UFBA).
By contrast the membership of FRFANZ includes a much broader spectrum of representatives from the “rural” fire sector: voluntary rural fire forces, the Department of Conservation, the Defence Department, territorial authorities, plantation forest owners, forestry contractors, fire suppression contractors, fire equipment manufacturers and suppliers and other allied industry associations such as Federated Farmers. In short FRFANZ has a much more “whole-of-sector” look than the UFBA.
We proposed an inclusive approach that would enable all existing members of the two associations to transfer seamlessly to the new merged association. This has implications for voting and governance. We suggested just two classes of members; Emergency Service Members (covering urban fire brigades, rural fire forces, industrial brigades and the like) and Affiliated Organisation Members (covering Provincial Associations, plantation forest owners, forestry contractors, equipment manufacturers and the like).
On balance the feedback received at the meetings suggested this approach will receive majority support.
Governance. The UFBA board is presently comprised of three elected members and two independent members appointed by the three elected members. The FRFANZ Management Committee is comprised of seven elected members. We proposed a board structure comprised of four members nominated by the Emergency Service Members, three members nominated by the Affiliated Organisation Members and two independent members appointed by the six elected members. Input from the meetings suggested this structure was too large, that it gave unfair representation to the Affiliated Organisation Members, and that the independent members should be appointed with a view to addressing diversity as well as governance experience. An uneven number of directors is preferred.
Ceremonial Officers. The UFBA Rules provide for the elected office of President and Vice President. There is no equivalent office in FRFANZ. The primary purpose of these officers is to represent the UFBA at service award functions and to personally present UFBA honours to recipients. They are entitled to attend and to speak at UFBA board meetings but not to vote. Given the heavy burden on these officers (45 weekends a year at service honour functions) members favoured retention of these roles and even suggested the need for more given the expanded membership of a merged Association. Members were less aware that Past Presidents and senior UFBA Officials from Provincials and the like were asked to make presentations on behalf of the President on a weekly basis because of the huge volumes of honours awarded each year.
The place of the Provincials. Members raised a number of questions relating to the status of the Provincial Associations under the proposed merged entity. The Provincials are independently incorporated societies with their own rules of association; they are not subsidiaries of the UFBA and there is no recourse to the UFBA in the event of a default. While there will need to be consequential amendments to their rules to reflect the incorporation of the new merged association, the comments we received suggested a much greater need for a complete review of the Provincial and sub association structure.
Other various comments.
- Members were concerned that there should not be so much emphasis on volunteer membership at the exclusion of career firefighters and contractors because the term “FENZ personnel” by definition in the Act refers to Volunteers, Employees and Contractors and a new Association should stick to the principles of “inclusiveness” and “diversity”
- There was broad support for the notion of a “professional association,” able to credibly represent industry good practice, policy reform and innovative technologies and the like
- General ambivalence to the term “brigade” being applied universally by rural representatives present
- Promote gender diversity in rules
- Get our own house in order before admitting non fire related members in future
- A call for more family involvement in the Association
- Focus on the younger generation to ensure the association’s sustainability and or relevance
- Best skilled people for Board roles
- Support Provincials or some other local functional groups
- Advocate for more employer recognition and local business
- Concerns around affiliates and associated members having uneven voting rights
- Broad membership base and diversity seen as good for Association
- Te Reo inclusion
So what next?
As mentioned the Draft Rules are with the Board at present for review and sign off. Once this is complete please keep an eye on your inboxes for a follow up consultation with schedule and actions very soon.
Feedback identifies that there is a broad desire for change. There is a great opportunity for you to help forge a new, more relevant, diverse and representative Association with your vote at Conference. Don’t forget to register your delegates, or if unable to attend in person you can request your vote be counted via proxy by another member.
The Fire Service Commission and the New Zealand Fire Service changed just over a year ago. Now it’s our turn to reflect the needs of modern New Zealand and the broader emergency services we provide to ensure safer and more resilient communities.
I look forward to seeing you at conference 2018.
Bill Butzbach, UFBA CEO
Powerpoint show including video (22MB)
Roadshow presentation PDF without video
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