For about a decade the National Rural Fire Authority’s objective has been to merge smaller Rural Fire Authorities with larger ones to create enlarged rural Fire Districts. This process was interrupted by the proposed reform of fire services in New Zealand in the mid-2000s but the push towards amalgamation is on again, supported by the Minister of Internal Affairs and the New Zealand Fire Service Commission, with transition led by the National Rural Fire Officer.
In fact, in the National Rural Authority’s 5 year Strategic Plan, 2009 – 2014, the number two objective is to reduce the present number of rural fire districts to 30 through mergers, creating enlarged rural Fire Districts. (Number One objective is leadership, itself, of the rural fire sector).
The strategy towards enlarged Fire Districts, according to the Plan, reflects stakeholders:
- “... seeking better ways of working within the current legislative framework for forest and rural fire management...
- ...by promoting and supporting voluntary amalgamation...
- ... to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the sector through greater professionalism and better resource management...”
The Plan says that enlarged rural Fire Districts will result in:
- fairer representation, strengthened ownership, of major stakeholders
- more equitable funding,
- efficiencies through pooled resources, equipment rationalisation
- higher standards through good governance and management practices
- improved local risk management
Those Rural Fire Authorities who agree to merge, and meet certain conditions, will enjoy incentive financial assistance.
The Game Plan
“By the end of 2014 to have fewer than 30 rural Fire Authorities”- Objectives, Strategy 2,
Strategic Plan 2009-2014, National Rural Fire Authority.
What They Are Saying
“I've been supporting this strategy for the past year and I'm pleased with the progress so far. The National Rural Fire Authority has led a huge amount of consultation and discussion across the country. Every region has now had some contact about the strategy. The model remains voluntary and this gives you the chance to set the direction for the future.This is obviously a key issue for your sector, as confirmed by the theme of your conference: ‘Is Bigger Better?’ I think there are real benefits to be had with greater economies of scale, pooled resources and taking a regional approach to fire management”- Minister of Internal Affairs, Guy Nathan, addressing Forest and Rural Fires Association’s Conference, July, 2010.
“Strong collaboration and cooperative partnerships underpin the way forward, and are fundamental to achieving good governance and management, and therefore better results, at regional level”- National Rural Fire Officer, Murray Dudfield, ‘National Rural Fire Officer’s Vision’ - 2009.
“The National Rural Fire Officer is now in hard sell mode to achieve this objective”- Chief Executive, Clutha District Council, May 2010.
“While there may be economies of scale with a single rural fire authority there is also a risk to the short management and communication lines that have enabled practical and effective links with local communities”– Chief Executive Gisborne District Council, January 2010.
“Amalgamate the existing (8) Rural Fire Authorities into one Enlarged Rural Fire District either as a body corporate or as part of the Greater Auckland City governance structure” – Manager, Rural Fire- Auckland, submission to Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, 2008.
“Following the process of voluntary amalgamation, the Department will consider the need for legislative change to promote further amalgamations”- Department of Internal Affairs Annual Report 2008 -2009.
“Rural Fire Authorities are not cascading detailed information about the pros and cons of enlarged Rural Fire Districts to members of theirvolunteer Rural Fire Forces” – Delegate at Forest and Rural Fires Association’s Conference, July, 2010
National Rural Fire Authority, Strategic Plan 2009-2014
UFBA website: https://www.ufba.org.nz/forum
NRFA, your local PRFO, Local Government Executives and Councillors (The run-up to local body elections is a good time to ask for information/present viewpoints).
You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in (top right) or register.