Message from George Verry, Chief Executive Officer
Following the release by the Government of the Fire Services Review Discussion Document on 27 May, the UFBA was keen to ensure the powerful, collective views of our 385 volunteer brigades and rural fire forces members would be heard.
Taking action to meet our strategic objectives of pursuing fit-for-purpose legislation and refocusing our advocacy processes, we immediately contacted all member brigades and fire forces to alert them to the review.
This review is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to align New Zealand’s fire services with best-practice risk management, governance and organisational structure.
A key objective of our new Strategic Plan is to provide effective advocacy on your behalf.
To ensure we can actively influence the review of the country’s fire services, we asked you to ‘have your say’ on the proposed reforms and issues especially relevant to volunteers through a consultation survey.
At the same time, we completed a significant research study and combined the results with your views - which clearly indicated a significant appetite for change and improvement.
Our sincere thanks to the brigades and individual members for the time and consideration they gave in providing responses via the survey, personal messages and telephone calls.
We received an excellent return of over 650 survey responses and are confident the UFBA submission, completed on behalf of members, reflects your views and provides an informed analysis of current and relevant issues.
Members who responded strongly supported the continued independence of brigades. The majority of you do not want to be directly engaged as part of a national service as you believe this would reduce your links and commitment to your communities.
Any reforms must therefore bring with them more representation of volunteers and their needs at all levels of the structure. Volunteerism must be fostered and supported.
In our submission, we supported many aspects of the reforms proposed in the discussion document including updating the law so volunteers are protected against any liability for both the fire and non-fire services you provide.
However, we have also argued volunteer brigades should remain independent organisations that serve their communities, resourced by a central agency (currently the New Zealand Fire Service and Rural Fire Authorities).
A major thrust of our submission is proposing a Volunteer Charter be agreed between NZFS, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the National Rural Fire Authority and volunteer representatives.
The Charter would specifically set out the relationships and processes for engagement with volunteers, representation and decision-making. This would make sure your voice is heard at all levels of governance and management.
There are similar Charters in place in Victoria and South Australia between the applicable State Governments, Country Fire authorities and the volunteer associations.
UFBA is also asking for legislation to require the appointment of at least one person to the fire agency board who is well qualified and experienced in volunteer matters. We also want fire services to ensure there are specific volunteer-focused roles at senior management level.
Other elements in our submission include more community participation in fire services at a regional and community levels and the introduction of more equitable mixed funding to resource fire and non-fire emergency responses.
UFBA will continue to represent members’ interests as the government decides what structural and legislative changes are needed to meet the needs of 21st century communities.
Download our submission and associated documents below:
- UFBA Fire Services Review Submission
- UFBA Member Survey Information Appendix i
- Summary of members’ main issues of concern Appendix ii
- Victoria CFA Volunteer Charter
- South Australia CFS Volunteer Charter
The UFBA Fire Services Review Submission July 2015, completed on behalf of members.
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