Fire Services Review: Advocating for a clear road map

  Posted on 1st April 2016 by Loralee Hyde in UFBA News

Message from George Verry, Chief Executive Officer

The UFBA continues to support the Government’s overall reform goals for New Zealand’s fire services.

We intend to play a constructive and positive role in the reform process while at the same time ensuring the reforms are in the best interests of the communities served by volunteers and of the volunteers themselves.

Full day Board workshop

On 8 March, the UFBA convened a full day workshop of the Board to consider a report prepared by UFBA Director Bill Butzbach and consultant Murray McKee on the progress of the review from our members’ point of view and to identify matters of importance in the work to date.

We believe following this course will enable us to assist the Review Team—a group of representatives from the Government, NZFS, National Rural Fire Authority (NRFA) and the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA)—during the transition design phase to a new fire service.

Clear road map required

At this stage, many of the proposals on policy issues have a low level of definition, rather than a precise road map with specific routes, waypoints and milestones.

We have engaged with the Review Team in the lead-up to the preparation of Cabinet papers on high level policy decisions, and we have strongly indicated that detailed policy work is required before the UFBA can form comprehensive views on the merits or otherwise of many of the reform proposals. 

We will continue to contribute during the next phase of detailed transition design planning, which affects how the high level policy decisions will be deployed.

Responsibility for the more detailed work will shortly pass from the Review Team to the Board of the new fire service entity.

A voice for volunteerism

Under the current model of engagement, volunteers are engaged by their local brigade on conditions set out in the brigade’s rules of association.

We consider this engagement model is central to the whole ethos of volunteerism, community resilience and local participation. I assure you the UFBA plans to assess the full implications of any changes for volunteers.

We intend to work with the new Fire Services Review transition team to ‘flesh out’ the detail of an engagement model that will work for all parties including our member brigades and rural fire forces.

The UFBA is encouraged by the many positive sentiments expressed by the Government including the need to retain the identity and role of local fire services and for volunteers to still come together in ways much like brigades and rural fire forces do under the current structure.

However, we do seek to understand how these sentiments will be given practical effect in the reforms. The UFBA will continue to provide a strong strategic voice for the cause of volunteerism.

UFBA welcomes new Fire Service Commission Board

The Minister of Internal Affairs Hon Peter Dunne has announced the appointment of the Hon Paul Swain as Chair of the New Zealand Fire Service Commission Board with effect from 1 April 2016.

The UFBA is delighted with the appointment of Mr Swain as Chair. He has a good understanding of the issues facing our fire services and, in particular, the matters that affect volunteer firefighters.

Of note is Mr Swain’s role as Chair of the 2012 Fire Review Panel that recommended changes to New Zealand’s fire services including to legislation, funding and the mandate regarding non-fire services brigades now provide.

On 17 March, Minister Peter Dunne announced the members of the Board who will join Mr Swain—Dr Nicola Crauford, Peter Drummond, Te Arohanui Cook and current member Angela Hauk-Willis.

The UFBA Fire Services Review Submission made in July 2015 asked for legislation to require the appointment of at least one person to the Board who is well qualified and experienced in volunteer matters.

We are pleased with the appointment of Peter Drummond. He has extensive experience with the matters that affect volunteer firefighters and was a member of the 2012 Fire Review Panel.

Peter was Chair of the United Fire Brigades’ Association for five years. This involvement will have provided pertinent insights and understanding into how our advocacy organisation represents the interests of member brigades and rural fire forces and the impact of our strong ‘collective voice’.

Te Arohanui Cook is Principal Rural Fire Officer for Central Hawke’s Bay District Council. Her understanding of issues relating to our rural colleagues will be of great value as we transition to a new unified fire services organisation.

Dr Crauford has been appointed as Deputy Chair. She has strong governance skills,  knowledge of the volunteer and rural fire sectors and fire engineering experience.

Angela Hauk-Willis has been re-appointed for two years. She has held senior change management and governance roles.

We thank the Rt Hon Wyatt Creech, David McFarlane, Rangi Wills and Vicki Caisley for the contributions they have made while serving on the Commission and for their support of our firefighters.

The UFBA looks forward to working with Mr Swain and the new Board as we continue to represent the interests of our members during the review.

To keep up-to-date with the Fire Services Review visit www.dia.govt.nz/Fire-Services-Transition or www.ufba.org.nz/fire_services_review/actions

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