KIWI FIRE SERVICES TO JOIN FORCES UNDER ‘FENZ’ PROJECT

New Zealand Fire Service, the National Rural Fire Authority and the country’s 38 rural fire authorities are due to be amalgamated into a single unified organisation by 1 July 2017, under a new Fire and Emergency New Zealand project.

The following four years will see further changes introduced to build and cement a modern, nationwide service, by integrating what are currently separate urban, rural, volunteer and paid firefighting forces.

The project will also set up local committees to ensure Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) is linked strongly to the communities it serves and protects.

The ‘Day One Blueprint’, which has been formally approved by the New Zealand Fire Service Board, sets out the direction and priorities for the FENZ Transition Project’s work to amalgamate the fire functions of 40-plus organisations into a single integrated service from next July onwards.

A longer-term blueprint will be developed to define the future state of FENZ in 2020 and beyond. Paul Swain, Chair of the New Zealand Fire Service Board, said they fully endorse the new name for the organisation – Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) – because firefighters nowadays respond to a huge variety of emergencies, including motor vehicle crashes, medical emergencies, natural disasters as well as fires.”

Funding, announced in April 2016, will provide extra support for volunteers, whom he said were a vital part of firefighting forces across the country, including remote and rural areas.

The aim of the new organisation is to also create more career path options for firefighters including vegetation fire management, enforcement and support, and the development of more rescue, medical and hazmat specialists.

“There is broad support for changes to our fire and emergency organisations, and we are also talking with the community and other stakeholders, to ensure the transition takes place as smoothly as possible,” noted Swain.

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The transition to the new organisation was discussed by the New Zealand Professional Firefighters’ Union at a meeting in Wellington in September.