Message from George Verry, Chief Executive Officer
The Fire and Emergency New Zealand Bill is now at the Select Committee stage. On 21 September, the UFBA and FRFANZ addressed the Government Administration Committee on issues in the FENZ Bill identified by our organisations and members.
Our strong representation comprised UFBA Chair Rick Braddock, FRFANZ Chair Kevin Ihaka, UFBA President Russell Anderson, UFBA Directors Glenn Williams, Bill Butzbach and Nigel Lilley, Tawa Volunteer Fire Brigade CFO Mike Farrand, consultant Murray McKee and myself.
Other brigades that had made independent submissions were also at the hearing, as were NZPFU President Peter Nicolle and Secretary Derek Best.
The Chair of the Committee, Hon Ruth Dyson, welcomed our contingent and introduced the committee members who wanted to explore questions arising from their reading of our submission.
Our main concerns
Rick Braddock introduced the background to the UFBA/FRFANZ submission, stressing it was a joint one made on behalf of UFBA member brigades and fire forces and volunteer members of FRFANZ.
He pointed out that volunteer firefighters are unique among volunteers—they do not volunteer for a particular time or a specific exercise or task and they volunteer to support their communities 24/7. Volunteers are absolutely critical, therefore, to the ongoing delivery of our fire and emergency services.
So continuity of service delivery is a prime reason why it is of paramount importance the views of volunteers are uppermost when considering the Bill.
Rick asked the question—“Does the Bill as it is drafted have the full support of fire services volunteers?” His answer was a qualified ‘yes with reservations’:
- Volunteers support unification of urban and rural services in principle
- Volunteers support the broader mandate and associated limitation of liability.
But volunteers do not support the absence of any indication in the Bill of:
- The organisational structure of FENZ
- The service delivery framework or command hierarchy
- How volunteers will be admitted to FENZ, how they will be recognised, who they will report to and how they will relate to the new organisation.
Rick emphasised we are very concerned the Bill is entirely silent on the relationship between FENZ and brigades and fire forces.
We did not necessarily expect to see a fully fleshed-out prescription for the relationship. However, we did expect to see the outline of the skeleton upon which the flesh could be added.
We urged the Committee to report back to Parliament that this critical aspect of the new fire and emergency organisation needs to be addressed in the Bill.
Kevin Ihaka spoke on the proposed transfer of response assets to FENZ—a significant issue for volunteer brigades and, particularly, rural fire forces due to substantial inventories of assets acquired through local fundraising and contributions from community organisations and individuals.
Kevin underscored the need for clarifying the applicable section in the Bill and developing a fair and equitable way to ensure response assets stay in the community that funded them.
We were privileged to be among the few submitters to have an extended hearing time at the Committee and came away very positive about the opportunity to be heard.
The hearing provided yet another opportunity to demonstrate the joint commitment of the UFBA and FRFANZ to our arrangement under the MoU to work together.
The depth of knowledge from the breadth of the country in our representation—large and small brigades and fire forces, rural and urban—was a true indication of our commitment to our advocacy for sustainable volunteerism.
The report from the Select Committee to Parliament is due by 5 January 2017.
The 115 submissions from the sector made to the Select Committee are now available to read here
FENZ Day One Blueprint
FENZ recently released a working version of the Day One Blueprint for Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), providing a high-level description of what the new organisation will look like on 1 July 2017.
You can download the FENZ Day One Blueprint below or here
The Blueprint makes it clear the establishment of FENZ is only the start of the journey—some changes will be implemented on 1 July, other changes will be actively piloted.
However, I reiterate this document is very high-level—there is still no detail on the issues we spoke about at the Select Committee hearing including how the ‘direct relationship’ between FENZ and volunteers will work.
The UFBA and FRFANZ will continue to represent the interests of our members on the major issues set out in our submission.
28 September 2016
26 September 2016
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