Message from George Verry, Chief Executive Officer
In late September, Minister Peter Dunne hosted a forum to update stakeholders including the UFBA on the common themes that emerged during the Fire Services Review consultation.
In response to the consultation feedback, the three options presented in the Fire Services Discussion Document in May have been modified with a view to strengthening community engagement in the delivery of fire services.
The new option developed combines a unified fire service with strong regional influence.
This influence would be provided by a regional committee that is consulted by the appropriate local management body of the new fire services and would focus on regional fire planning.
A flexible approach to setting up the regional committees would allow them to respond to the changing needs of communities.
Viability of volunteer force
New Zealand’s fire services - urban and rural - are distinct, in that over 80% of our firefighters are volunteers.
The Minister assured stakeholders that this is not about to change. He stated that alongside maintaining the position of our paid firefighters, ensuring the future viability of the volunteer force is critical to the future of the Fire Service.
Mr Dunne also said the best option for funding the new Fire Service is still being worked on, with ongoing discussions with interested parties. He intends to take a paper to Cabinet shortly proposing a new organisational and financial structure for the Fire Service.
Legislation to give effect to the new system should be introduced early next year, and Mr Dunne’s intention is that the new Fire Service be launched by the middle of 2017.
Early transition planning is underway and is happening in parallel with policy development.
There is recognition by DIA and the Fire Services Review project team that any change involving people across an entire country is substantial, complex and will require thoughtful planning, and stakeholder involvement in design and implementation.
Cabinet will be asked to signal later this year what it wishes to achieve and by when. Whatever is decided, it will be crucial to keep disruption to a minimum.
UFBA advocacy continues
From feedback, it is clear the UFBA Fire Services Review submission was well received.
UFBA will continue to participate in the review process including in transition planning to a new Fire Service. Effective advocacy on the issues and concerns of members is our highest priority.
We will provide a comprehensive update on the Fire Services Review consultation and the work the UFBA has undertaken on behalf of members at our Annual Conference on Saturday 14 November.
For a detailed summary of the Fire Services Review including copies of all submissions visit www.dia.govt.nz/Fire-Services-Review
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