UFBA/FRFANZ: Meeting with the Minister of Internal Affairs
UFBA/FRFANZ representatives including UFBA Chair Rick Braddock, FRFANZ Chair Kevin Ihaka, UFBA Stakeholder Manager Ceara Owen-Perry, adviser Murray McKee and myself, met with the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Hon Tracey Martin, on 15 February.
This initial meeting with the new Minister is part of our strategy to maintain regular contact with the Minister and the Government.
This will enable us to provide updates on the work UFBA/FRFANZ is doing to represent the interests of our members and discuss issues relating to the fire and emergency services sector.
Full briefing of UFBA/FRFANZ work
The meeting was very positive and established we have expectations in common regarding the fire and emergency services reform progressing so the programme benefits both communities and volunteers.
The Minister is from a rural background and she expressed a close affinity with rural firefighters and an understanding of the issues they face. She acknowledged the benefits that a merger between UFBA and FRFANZ would bring for both rural and urban volunteers.
On behalf of our members, we provided the Minister with a full briefing of the work UFBA/FRFANZ is undertaking and key issues for the sector including:
- How we worked positively with DIA officials throughout the fire reform process and were key partners supporting the transition towards sector amalgamation
- Details of how UFBA and FRFANZ are structured, our wide outreach to members and how we effectively unite and represent all our members with a single powerful voice
- The value of fire and emergency services volunteerism with an estimation of the volunteer contribution to urban and rural communities being $529 million
- Implementing a ‘better deal’ for volunteers—we discussed how UFBA/FRFANZ look forward to working closely with the Fire and Emergency NZ Board and senior management to ensure Sections 3 and 36 of the FENZ Act are implemented in full
- Section 37 of the FENZ Act requires Fire and Emergency NZ to provide independent advocacy services to volunteers free of charge—UFBA/FRFANZ will work with Fire and Emergency NZ to ensure the funding reserved for volunteers is respected and to extend the interim funding arrangements for advocacy services to 2020 and beyond
- The impact on volunteers of their broader role in now attending a large portion of non-fire incidents such as motor vehicle extrications, storm damage, flooding, vegetation fires, technical rescues, medical emergencies and ambulance support—responses to these types of incident are increasing at a significant rate.
Youth Cadet Scheme
A major topic of discussion was the development of a national fire and emergency services cadet scheme.
With having had links to youth training, the Minister is keen to see a cadet scheme get underway. She noted the benefits of youth training for supporting the sustainability of volunteer brigades / rural fire forces and for strengthening emergency management skills and awareness within communities.
We detailed how UFBA has already led a three-year multi-agency pilot programme to train 170 15 to 19-year-old students in risk awareness and emergency response skills and confirmed we have had discussions with Fire and Emergency NZ about the need to develop and implement a cadet scheme throughout New Zealand.
On behalf of our members, we outlined our future vision of UFBA/FRFANZ having a role in building and supporting such a cadet scheme and how we intend seeking alternative funding streams for this work.
Diversity and inclusion
The Minister also noted her interest in enhancing diversity and embracing inclusion in our volunteer brigades and rural fire forces including recruiting more women to better reflect the communities they serve.
We stressed UFBA/FRFANZ have strategies in place to encourage diversity and create a more inclusive environment including increasing the numbers of women attending our leadership and development training and our annual conference.
The Minister indicated a desire to meet UFBA/FRFANZ on a regular basis for updates on progress with the fire and emergency reforms from our perspective and to build a positive ongoing relationship.
I will continue to update members on our relationship with the Minister as we move through the three-year integration phase of Fire and Emergency NZ.
28 February 2018
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