National earthquake response
The Board commends our organisations, both urban and rural for their professional response to the major 7.8M earthquake centred in Kaikoura / Waiau on Monday 14 November, the resulting tsunami warnings, and subsequent flooding in different parts of the country. We are particularly grateful to those of you who left your own homes and families to tend to the needs of others first.
Despite challenging conditions, the response and support offered by our people to their communities in the hours and days following has been simply outstanding. It represents a major team effort from rural and urban, career and volunteer, operational and non-operational people alike, which is a great sign for the future of Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), and the communities who rely on you.
Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne has also extended his thanks and appreciation for the on-going response.
At November’s board meeting, the Board unanimously agreed to provide financial support to our volunteer and career workforce on the ground, in the form of an initial contribution to the Benevolent Fund to support volunteers and career staff impacted by the earthquake, and a supplementary brigade grant to urban and rural volunteer brigades involved in the earthquake response.
Pre-season rural fire workshop
The Saturday before (12 November), I was attending a pre-season rural fire workshop hosted by the Marlborough-Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority. It was great to see rural and urban fire crews discussing preparation for the impending fire season, and how they could work together in FENZ next year. Little did they know how busy they would be the following Monday!
Addington Station underway in Christchurch – Photo Credit: Karen Casey
Speaking of earthquakes, on 7 November Chief Executive & National Commander (CE & NC) Paul Baxter and I visited Christchurch to review rebuild progress. Although it has taken a while to get going, I’m told that building a station is comparatively easy compared to the process of purchasing properties, obtaining resource consents, and any necessary ground remediation work. The good news is Southbridge and Rangiora are complete, Lyttelton is almost complete, Addington and Woolston are now underway, and Sockburn is up next.
Addington Station underway in Christchurch – Photo Credit: Karen Casey
Paging contract signed
I’m pleased to announce the Board have approved a proposal to upgrade the existing paging network. CE & NC Paul Baxter recently signed a seven-year contract with Spark Digital, which ensures continuity of the service for at least the next seven years.
The Fire Service / FENZ will operate the network as lead agency and we are in talks with our emergency service partners, the health sector and other organisations who regard paging as critical for their business to establish if they wish to join the network.
I recently attended the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union (NZPFU) annual conference in Palmerston North this month, with Board members Nicki Crauford, Angela Hauk-Willis, Peter Drummond, and CE & NC Paul Baxter.
It was good to update delegates on the latest progress toward FENZ, and discuss the union’s important issues. They were able to workshop these with the FENZ Project transition team the following day. Thanks to Palmerston North’s crews for hosting us at the station for a BBQ afterwards.
First local committee pilot
Early in November we announced Greater Auckland would be the first of two pilots to test the role of local committees, which are outlined in the FENZ Bill.
Greater Auckland stretches from Wellsford in the north to Waiuku in the south, including the islands of the Hauraki Gulf and Great Barrier Island.
It was chosen because it contains a variety of fire-related risks and needs including cities, towns, an industrial sector, diversity in farming/land use, forestry plantations, Defence zones, and conservation land.
It has 11 Voluntary Rural Fire Forces, 29 Career Fire Stations and 39 NZFS Volunteer Fire Stations, with 53 management and support staff.
A pilot committee made up of Greater Auckland stakeholders will work with the FENZ Project team to develop and test what is required for local committees to be effectively established after 1 July 2017.
This includes working out how we establish committees, and identify members, how advisory functions will work between local committees and FENZ, and how local stakeholders can influence local planning. You can read more about Greater Auckland, and the concept of local committees at fenzproject.co.nz
Awards and events
November also saw the awarding of a Double Gold Star for 50 years’ service to David McKenzie of Kaitaia, which was attended by board member Peter Drummond. Bevan Muir of Invercargill also received his Double Gold Star the same day, and the Board was represented by Fire Region Manager David Guard.
Leigh and Ngongotaha volunteer brigades celebrated their 50th and 75th jubilee anniversaries this month, and these were attended by board members Te Aroha Cook and Angela Hauk-Willis respectively.
My congratulations to you on these individual and collective achievements, which recognise many years of outstanding service to your communities.
November Board Meeting
November’s board meeting was held at Wellington City Station, where the Fire Service has been coordinating its national response to the Kaikoura earthquake.
We appreciated the opportunity to meet the personnel on duty, and hear from the response coordinator Paul Turner about the necessary logistics and coordination work that happens behind the scenes to keep things running on the ground. We were impressed to see how closely uniformed and non-uniformed, urban and rural people were all working together.
We subsequently heard an update on the first meeting of the National Women’s Advisory Committee meeting, which I attended to hear about how they’ve agreed to involve male champions in this work. We simply have to do better to support the recruitment and retention of women in our organisation, so this is right in line with where we’re headed with FENZ, towards a more inclusive, diverse organisation.
Safety, health and wellbeing
This month’s presentation came from Manager, People Safety & Support Alison Barnes, who provided an overview of what’s going well, and current challenges.
With the amalgamation of rural and urban fire services, we will need broader reporting, information and support to ensure everyone in FENZ can continue to meet their responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. A FENZ safety, health and wellbeing plan, policies and core systems will be in place from 1 July, 2017 to enable this.
We know also that psychological wellbeing is very important in the context of firefighters attending more medical calls, motor vehicle crashes and suicides.
So it was pleasing to hear the Fire Service’s new critical incident and personal stress support programme is being well received and is well supported by unions and associations.
The Christchurch Welfare Liaison Officer with help from peer support led the welfare response in the region, including visiting brigades affected by the earthquake.
Until the next update, stay safe and keep up the good work.
Hon. Paul Swain
New Zealand Fire Service Board Chair