Here's to the volunteers! Who are here, there any everywhere you need them

Issue date:

UFBA media release: 20/06/2023 - National Volunteer Week

This Te Wiki Tūao ā-Motu National Volunteer Week, the United Fire Brigade’s Association is sending a loud and proud shout-out to the more-than 12,000 volunteers that make up the bulk of the brigades around the country.

Around 85% of Aotearoa’s frontline firefighters are volunteers, providing on-call emergency cover with their paid counterparts, covering roughly 93% of the country geographically. They are the fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who drop everything when the siren goes out to serve and protect their communities.

These volunteer firefighters are also backed by other volunteers within their brigades, such as secretaries, treasurers and Operational Support personnel, as well as their whanau and employers who generously support them in doing what they need to do for our communities.

President of the UFBA Amber Hollis, herself a volunteer firefighter while also employed by FENZ to train other firefighters, says volunteers go above and beyond for their communities every day.

“It has been a hell of a year for our members. From Cyclone Gabrielle and a number of other weather events to the tragic incident at Loafers Lodge in Wellington, our volunteers front up and do their job with dignity, respect and professionalism.

“I am inspired by what so many individuals do when their communities around the country need assistance.”

UFBA Chief Executive and third-generation firefighter, Bill Butzbach, says the annual week of acknowledgement for volunteers is particularly important for the fire service as it provides an opportunity to publicly and proudly recognise the impact volunteers have.

“New Zealand cannot afford a fully paid fire service – we are enormously reliant on our volunteers who are well-trained and take a professional approach to their role. They are the backbone of our service. The average volunteer firefighter dedicates 10 years of 
their life to serving their community – that's an extraordinary commitment.”

Butzbach says it's important to note that the role of a firefighter continues to change. Nearly half (43%) of callouts are medical incidents, with UFBA members the first responders to a lot of Aotearoa emergencies, particularly in smaller towns and rural communities.

“Fires now make up only around 20% of our callouts. Our volunteer colleagues respond exactly the way their paid counterparts do – to everything from medical emergencies, car crashes, floods and weather events, rescue situations and, of course, fires.”

“93% of New Zealand is served by volunteer firefighters, supported by highly specialised paid firefighters and other professional services. The additional support and expertise our volunteers provide keeps New Zealanders safe and provides life-saving services at some of the worst moments in people’s lives. They do it with strength, empathy and compassion.

“So, to all our volunteers, all around the motu – thank you. On behalf of all New Zealanders, thank you. We'd be lost without you.”