Message from George Verry, Chief Executive Officer
The Fire and Emergency New Zealand Bill was passed in Parliament on 4 May.
With just over a month to go until the implementation of Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) on 1 July, the UFBA and the Forest and Rural Fire Association (FRFANZ) continue to strongly represent the interests of our members during the transition.
Currently we are working with the FENZ Transition Team on the co-design of ‘four pillars’ of the Volunteer Strategy—the relationship volunteers may have with Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Day One initiatives, dispute resolution and future advocacy and support.
FENZ National Forum
In addition to the usual consultation discussions—many of which involve a variety of personnel from our member brigades and rural fire forces, leadership groups and senior staff—UFBA/FRFANZ representatives attended a National Forum for stakeholders in Wellington on 27 April together with 180 others connected to fire and emergency services.
Presentations from the NZFSC Board and NZFS and NRFA leadership groups covered readiness for Day One of Fire and Emergency New Zealand in relation to people, organisation and policy, planning for integration following 1 July and the new identity.
We then attended a workshop along with NZFSC Board members and senior FENZ staff where we had an opportunity to ask questions— these strongly focussed on the ‘direct relationship’ volunteers would have with FENZ from 1 July.
Our continuing advocacy regarding this area has centred around what this relationship would look like. I am delighted that following extensive consultation with UFBA/FRFANZ and our members, FENZ announced on 9 May the relationship with volunteers will be one of ‘engagement’ rather than employment.
A decision has been made to change the name of the arrangement from a ‘Volunteer Agreement’ (which is how it has been referred to until now) to a ‘Volunteer Engagement’. FENZ expect to send out Volunteer Engagement letters to rural volunteers from mid-May and to urban volunteers from the end of May. Members will not need to sign these letters.
The UFBA has advocated for some time that the position of Chief Executive be separate to, and distinct from, any other leadership roles in our fire and emergency services.
This assumes even greater importance in the challenge we all have, to successfully bring together so many different groups into the unified organisation—career, volunteer, rural, urban, and industrial brigades.
We are very pleased to note the appointments of Rhys Jones as Chief Executive, Paul McGill as National Commander of Urban Fire and Emergency operations and Kevin O’Connor as National Manager of Rural Fire and Emergency operations.
UFBA and our partner FRFANZ have had long-standing, productive working relationships with Paul and Kevin and we look forward to meeting Rhys and developing a similar rapport with him as he leads the integration work
Our liaison with FRFANZ continues to grow. On 2 May, UFBA General Manager Ceara Owen-Perry and I met with the FRFANZ Board to discuss future collaboration of benefit to both organisations.
In particular, we are assisting FRFANZ to advocate the causes of their membership. We are also working with their directors on setting up the FRFANZ Annual Conference and AGM in Auckland in August
Leadership and Governance
In my last message, I reported we were planning a Leadership and Governance Workshop catering for our rural colleagues to offer them this valued experience as we all meet the challenges of the transition to the new FENZ environment.
With this workshop set down for 22-24 June, we put a comprehensive communications plan in place to publicise this opportunity to as many rural fire forces as possible including FRFANZ members. I am pleased to report the interest in this workshop was high with a strong response from rural firefighters.
Our June workshop is now oversubscribed, however, a Urban/Rural Leadership and Governance Workshop will follow on 14-16 September.
I encourage both urban and rural firefighters (UFBA and FRFANZ members or those who do not belong to either organisation) to apply through our application form at www.ufba. org.nz/events/leadership_governance_ workshop_Sep17.
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