Welcome to the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Bulletin. As we get closer to the establishment of Fire and Emergency New Zealand on 1 July, this information sheet will provide you with detailed updates. Please feel free to print and pass it on. Please also check past issues of the Board Update and the Bulletin on the Transition Project’s website. If you have any questions or comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Answering your questions
With over 14,000 people moving into the new organisation of Fire and Emergency New Zealand on 1 July 2017, there have been many questions about what to expect. In addition to the hundreds of questions asked at meetings, there have been over 250 questions directed to email@example.com, through the Transition Project’s website, and Facebook page. A number cover similar topics and we regularly publish answers to these FAQs on the website.
The top five topics people are currently asking about are:
· Volunteer Brigades and Voluntary Rural Fire Forces
· Training and capability development
· Brand and identity
· Funding and finance.
Here’s some recent questions and answers on these and other topics. For more, check out fenzproject.co.nz/faq
Volunteer Brigades and Voluntary Rural Fire Forces
Will volunteers keep their connection with their Brigade or Voluntary Rural Fire Force (VRFF)?
Yes. It’s important that the strong relationships built up over time between communities and their local Brigade or VRFF are maintained. In establishing Fire and Emergency New Zealand, the Board wishes to build on what already works well in communities around New Zealand.
So, while volunteers will become Fire and Emergency New Zealand personnel from 1 July 2017, they will still come together as the local Brigade or VRFF in much the same way as they do now. Local leadership roles will continue in Brigades, VRFFs, and stations.
What will the new dispute resolution scheme look like for volunteers?
From 1 July 2017, an interim Dispute Resolution Process will be available to volunteers.
An additional process (the Volunteer Issue Process) will be available to volunteers from Day One. This is intended to be a first step to resolve, where possible, early and local resolution of any issues as they arise.
Once Fire and Emergency New Zealand is up and running, a formal dispute resolution scheme will then be established. The Transition Project team is working with stakeholders to develop proposals for the new scheme, and Fire and Emergency New Zealand is required to formally consult with people affected by the scheme before it is implemented. This consultation will happen after 1 July 2017.
How do we rotate volunteers for long duration jobs, such as rural fires, bearing in mind employers’ needs and wages?
Rotation of volunteers for long duration jobs will continue as it currently does, at least for the first year. You will be included in any discussions around any proposed changes.
Will we still be known as [name] Volunteer Fire Brigade or Volunteer Rural Fire Force?
You will still be known by your existing name — this will not change on Day One.
Training and capability development
How are you making sure that all Fire and Emergency New Zealand personnel have the training and skills they need to do their job from Day One?
Operational readiness is the focus for any skills and knowledge required for Day One. If there are any changes to functions and powers for operational personnel, then they can expect to receive information and/or training on these changes before 30 June 2017. Learning opportunities up to Day One will include:
· Fire and Emergency New Zealand Inspector Powers for all operational personnel, and in-depth learning for the personnel receiving the powers
· The Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act, and what it means for all personnel
· The approach to supporting volunteers, including the Volunteer Issue process
· The important policies, such as Day One Command and Control
· The business systems and processes that will change on Day One, for the personnel who use them.
This is only a selection of what’s coming, before and after Day One. A calendar will be available on www.fenzproject.co.nz in late April providing dates and locations for upcoming learning opportunities for identified personnel.
How will training work when Fire and Emergency New Zealand is up and running?
The current training practices across urban and rural won’t change on Day One, and all prior learning and qualifications will be recognised. During the three year integration phase (2017-2020) Fire and Emergency New Zealand will progress a long term capability development approach for operational personnel. This will include assessing the standards and quality of training.
Where is training heading regarding technical rescues?
This is something that will be looked at in the integration phase (2017-2020) as the Transition Project team is focused on delivering new and essential training for 1 July 2017. All current urban and rural operations training will continue on Day One.
What’s the arrangement for my Brigade or Voluntary Rural Fire Forces to continue using our current response assets?
Any response assets currently used will continue to be available from 1 July. Legal arrangements will be in place to ensure that response assets remain available for VRFFs and Volunteer Brigades to continue to carry out their duties.
Will assets that have been purchased through community fundraising stay with the community?
Yes, assets will continue to be used in the community/region that brought or fundraised for them, using the philosophy that the assets obtained for a community should be retained by the community.
Brand and identity
Will there be new uniforms, new logo and new livery to go with the new name? What colour will the trucks be?
Fire and Emergency New Zealand is a new organisation, and needs its own logo. The new logo will be shared shortly, once a decision has been made by the Board. However, uniforms and fleet livery will not change on Day One. This is because the question of uniforms is one that will require extensive discussions and consultation.
To develop the new logo, the Transition Project team has been engaging with over 160 fire personnel (and the public) to hear what our personnel need, want and, most of all, value about their organisation. Once the identity changes have been decided by the Board, there will be a gradual transition to the new look from Day One onwards. When uniforms, livery, or trucks, need replacing this is when any changes (if required) will be made.
Funding and finance
Can volunteers or their employers be considered for reduced insurance levies?
The Board is discussing a number of options to provide an enhanced range of support for volunteers across a number of areas. However, levy exemptions can only be set under regulations made by the Government. The Department of Internal Affairs consulted publicly last year on levy exemptions. The proposals did not include an exemption or partial exemption for volunteers; rather they focused on changes to the types of property currently exempt from the levy.
We understand from research that volunteers are motivated by a variety of factors and there are differing opinions about cash payments and insurance subsidies.
In terms of the range of support for volunteers, the Transition Project team is working with urban and rural representatives on a volunteer strategy to improve support for volunteers in the new organisation.
Will we need to change names on bank accounts?
Not at this stage.
Will rural firefighters be paid?
On 1 July 2017, all rural volunteers will become Fire and Emergency New Zealand personnel on the same payment arrangements they are currently on, with no change to any current payments.
What happens to substantial amounts of money some Brigades or VRFFs have invested? Will the new Fire and Emergency New Zealand management be able to access the money or expect the Brigade to use it for what has historically been operational expenses?
The current arrangements will continue. The existing bank account is yours (belongs to the brigade) and that will continue.
Local Advisory Committee Boundaries
How will Fire and Emergency New Zealand consult with the public on boundaries when we have so many already ie. Police, Ambulance etc?
While the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Bill requires the Board to consider the boundaries of other relevant services when setting boundaries for Local Advisory Committees, this is just one consideration. The Board also has to consider the efficiency and effectiveness of fire and emergency services in the local area, and the local risk profile.
The Board must endeavour to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the committees and the ability of the committees to represent relevant communities.
The Transition Project team is working on options for Local Advisory Committee boundaries for the Board to consider for the required consultation. The consultation will take place sometime after Day One. This is being informed by the Project team’s engagement with local representatives (including other emergency services) on working groups in Greater Auckland and Mid-South Canterbury.
The Department of Internal Affairs has consulted on regulations for Local Advisory Committees, and proposes that regulations will be made for 1 July 2018. The Board will need to comply with any relevant requirements of these regulations when establishing and running the local advisory committees.
What is the process for employees and volunteers transferring to Fire and Emergency New Zealand?
NZFS/NRFA EMPLOYEES: New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS) and National Rural Fire Authority (NRFA) employees will become employees of Fire and Emergency New Zealand, and their existing employment terms and conditions will remain unchanged on 1 July. Letters of confirmation will be sent to all NZFS/NRFA employees towards the end of May.
RURAL FIRE AUTHORITY EMPLOYEES WORKING SOLELY ON FIRE (FULL-TIME OR PART-TIME): RFA personnel working solely on rural fire duties (whether full-time or part-time) will be consulted with by their employer (Territorial Authority or Enlarged Rural Fire District) on their proposed transfer to Fire and Emergency New Zealand, and then pending the outcome of consultation, offered a role with Fire and Emergency New Zealand on equivalent terms and conditions of employment.
TAs and ERFDs have been asked to undertake this process in early April. Once consultation is completed, transferring RFA personnel will receive a letter of offer from Fire and Emergency New Zealand and it is now envisaged that these will be sent out in late April.
RURAL FIRE AUTHORITY EMPLOYEES WORKING PARTLY ON FIRE: RFA employees currently employed to work partly on fire duties will, as part of consultation, have a discussion with their employer on the impact of the proposed changes on their role and the employment options available to them. This will include the ability to apply for any of the vacant new roles that will be created in Fire and Emergency New Zealand and which will be advertised in late April.
VOLUNTEERS: Urban and rural volunteers will become Fire and Emergency New Zealand personnel on 1 July and will have a Volunteer Agreement towards the end of May. Volunteers will continue to maintain the same relationship they currently have with their brigade or rural fire force.
Answer to more questions about jobs, roles, and entitlements are on the website.
Has the delay in Royal Assent had any impact on this process?
Because the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Bill is still before Parliament, technically we can only make conditional offers at this point. Be assured that the intent is still to have all our people legally transferred into Fire and Emergency New Zealand by 1 July 2017. The latest information is that the Bill is on track to be passed in May.
The future of Fire and Emergency New Zealand
What kind of challenges lie ahead for officers and their crews as we transition into Fire and Emergency New Zealand?
We are currently finalising the ‘Phase Two Blueprint’ which is the plan for how we tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead over the next few years.
Our ultimate goal is a unified organisation. As the Minister and the Board Chair have said, we need to take our time to get it right. This means focusing on addressing the key themes identified in the review: increasing effectiveness of service delivery, better support of volunteers, addressing under investment in rural services, retaining community involvement, and involving our people and representatives from the wider sector in designing the new organisation.
Our first step is bringing together some 14,000 people and 40 organisations under one umbrella on Day One. Work is underway on guidance to make sure command and control arrangements at incidents are clear on Day One, and you can expect to see those within the next month. While we’re just starting work on the next stages, this may offer greater opportunities for all firefighters to work across a wider range of specialities depending on the risks and needs of the community and greater flexibility for brigades and fire forces about the types of incidents they attend, and what they are required to train for.