Advocacy - Retaining Newlands VFB 2020

Update October 2020: Newlands VFB have now been relocated to another temporary site within Newlands community allowing the brigade to retain their individual identity and ability to respond. Update February 2020: UFBA Director Brenda Pilott represented the brigade at a packed public meeting hosted by local MP Greg O'Connor. Brenda' presentation was well received by the community.

Since the 1950s the Newlands Community, like many across New Zealand, recognised the need to form their own fire brigade, doing so in 1965. Much of the reasoning at the time still exists – Newlands even today remains a thriving community with some of the fastest growth seen in New Zealand. It also has certain vulnerabilities including access via potentially earthquake susceptible bridges, surrounded by dense scrub and gorse and adjacent to State Highway 1’s busy Ngauranga Gorge.

And yet despite the community need and hard work of generations of Newlands-residents, their local brigade has had to challenge three proposals to disestablish or consolidate them with local Johnsonville composite brigade. Now, at a point where their dilapidated station sits on land  Wellington City Council wants to use for car parking – and despite the land originally being gifted by the Newlands Recreation Club in 1958 to house the Wellington Fire Police Unit (later to become the NVFB) – they yet again face proposals for their relocation.

The brigade have been offered three ‘options’ by Fire and Emergency. To close the station and disestablish the brigade, to co-locate the brigade at busy Johnsonville Composite Station alongside the Johnsonville Volunteers or the brigade’s preferred option of relocating to a new site. The preferred option for FENZ is relocation to Johnsonville.

The UFBA has been called upon to support Newlands VFB with preparing a submission to Fire and Emergency in reply to the proposals.

Testimony from a number of interested parties including residents associations, local MPs, Ngā Hau e Whā o Paparārangi Marae and the Newlands Resilience Group gives compelling reasoning for retaining the brigade. First and foremost is the enduring need for sustainable community resilience and the important working relationships this very active brigade has with the local community. Second is the evidence of their contribution of over 100 call outs per year, often in support of local Johnsonville and Tawa brigades as well as backup into Wellington City or North to Petone and the Hutt Valley. During weekday office hours Newlands is the nearest pump to Johnsonville for back up purposes.

The threat to the brigade raises key points that are fundamental to not just the community but also Fire and Emergency’s long-term priorities and national strategy. The community needs to maintain capability to respond to incidents in all eventualities. The community has for many years been calling for a facility where multiple local groups concerned with Civil Defence matters can work together on a daily basis.  With the agreement of the brigade we’ve proposed a different option – to co-locate the brigade with collaborative organisations in a new ‘Fire, Emergency and Community Safety Hub’, part funded by FENZ, the Council and the wider community - that addresses the wider needs of the community and those committed to protecting it.

Advocating for our member brigades is an important part of the UFBA’s purpose, to ensure you have a listening ear and voice to speak on your behalf. The Newlands VFB and UFBA have decided to share this important work with all member brigades.

A copy of the submission to Fire and Emergency is available for members to view below.