Welcome to FENZ

Today marks the biggest change to the fire service in more than 40 years. From July 1, 2017 all urban, rural and volunteer fire brigades join forces under the new umbrella name of FENZ, which stands for Fire Emergency New Zealand. Sophie Rishworth speaks to those involved to hear what it will mean for the public.

Today marks the biggest change to the fire service in more than 40 years. From July 1, 2017 all urban, rural and volunteer fire brigades join forces under the new umbrella name of FENZ, which stands for Fire Emergency New Zealand. Sophie Rishworth speaks to those involved to hear what it will mean for the public.

Fire Service Changes -
TIMES A’CHANGING: Tairawhiti area fire commander Charlie Turei, Gisborne Airport manager Murray Bell, JNL’s Dylan Foster, Anne Tolley, DoC’s Malcolm Smith, NZDF Corporal Thomas Grant and principle rural fire officer Ray Dever.

The most important thing for the people of Tairawhiti is that the service delivered by firefighters on June 30, 2017 will be exactly the same on July 1.

There will be no change to the 111 call when reporting a fire, and you will still get the same immediate response.

But behind the scenes are the biggest changes the emergency organisation has seen in more than 40 years.

From today, all urban, rural and volunteer brigades wil be under the same organisation FENZ (Fire Emergency New Zealand).

Tairawhiti area fire commander Charlie Turei says all services will be improved over the next few years.

“This has got to be the most impressive change I’ve seen in my career,” he says.

For example, there will be more specialised personnel attending hazardous substance jobs, and FENZ will move into marine responses too.

“We have a port here so that alone means we have to think about how Gisborne would respond to a sea fire.”

Commander Turei, 65, has been Tairawhiti area fire commander for 10 years — and has been in the fire service since June 6, 1975 when he walked into the Lower Hutt fire station and asked for a job. Forty-two years on, and now in a management position, Commander Turei is enthusiastic about this change — which had been talked about for years but never got off the ground.

He describes it as a “perfect storm” of minds and events, which meant it could finally happen for New Zealand to have a single entity for all firefighters.

To oversee these changes, Commander Turei will stay on for two more years in his role and then that will be it, he says.

“It would be good to achieve this and then pass it on to the good young future leaders that are coming through,” he says.

“Our community needs to know about these changes because we’re such a close-knit community.”

Prior to 1976, New Zealand had local fire boards that ran the fire service. In 1976 the first big change came when the NZ Fire Commission took over operations.

Today’s transformation is the biggest change to the organisation since then.

National MP Anne Tolley says having a single fire organisation will future-proof and strengthen fire services.

“To help with this, the Government announced $303 million in transitional funding as part of Budget 2017.”

Commander Turei has always led from the front and sees this role as no different.

He has communicated regularly with his team as the FENZ changes approached, to let them know it was going well.

“This is a huge change and a massive relief for everyone.”

There will be more personnel, more gear and more equipment, he says.

A transition team based in Wellington was created to bring FENZ into being. Head of that team, David Strong, also oversaw the recent changes to NZ Post.

Commander Turei says it has been an amazing experience to work with people of that ilk and skill on this scale of work.

“In just 12 months, David Strong and his transition team have achieved much and today we are there. What will get over the line on July 1 will work and function. It is an exciting time.”

FENZ will also incorporate, through signed operational service agreements, Department of Conservation (DoC), The NZ Defence Force (NZDF), forestry owners, land owners and Civil Aviation. All firefighters within these organisations will be able to develop strong collaborative working relationships, share training and equipment, and respond together to emergencies. There will be new logos, badges and equipment.

Mayor Meng Foon says FENZ is a great opportunity for our firefighting community to work together formally now.

BIG BENEFITS FOR RURAL BRIGADES

Principle rural fire officer Ray Dever has been involved for 50 years, so trust him when he says about FENZ, “This is magic”.

As part of the Government’s $303m budget to transition all brigades under the FENZ umbrella, $191m is for operational funding over four years to address funding gaps in rural fire services, set up local advisory committees to make sure community needs are well understood by FENZ, and provide better support for New Zealand’s 11,300 fire volunteers.

Neville Tohill is the chief fire officer at the Matawai Volunteer Fire Brigade, and he says it is about time it was all one organisation with everyone working together.

“When you have separate organisations working separately it’s too confusing. You need everyone working together.

“In the past we haven’t been resourced for medical calls or motor vehicle accidents. We’ve done them, but now we will be funded for them.”

Neville has been a volunteer firefighter for more than 35 years. He loves helping people and giving back to the community.

During year one under FENZ, $2.6m will go towards volunteer training.

ASSOCIATED ORGANISATIONS

Department of Conservation

There’s an operational service agreement still to be signed, but that’s just paperwork to complete. What FENZ means to DoC is a “one-stop-shop” that will be great for the public, says DoC community ranger Malcolm Smith.

DoC has about 500 trained firefighters around the country. The introduction of FENZ means DoC will no longer be a rural fire authority but will work under FENZ.

“It’s a really good change. It has been so confusing for the public in the past.

“If you want to have a fire and get a fire permit, now it’s a one-stop-shop and you go to FENZ. Same with having to report a rural fire — now under FENZ the response will be better, with not only rural brigades attending but the urban ones can attend now too.

The training and upskilling of DoC’s firefighters will also all be done by FENZ.

New Zealand Defence Force

Corporal Thomas Grant says their operational service agreement to become part of FENZ is positive for the NZDF.

“It’s good for us to strengthen the relationship with fire and emergency rather than going through different agencies.”

Corporal Grant says NZDF always had a good relationship with the fire service, but now “it will be even better”.

Juken New Zealand (JNL)

JNL will save tens of thousands of dollars with the introduction of FENZ, which will now pay for the training of forestry staff who fight fires.

JNL forest manager East Coast forests Dylan Foster says it means a complete change in the way the company will approach rural fires.

“It’s a boon for forestry and landowners alike,” he says.

“We were responsible for fire suppression but as of July 1, it’s FENZ.

“It’s a positive step, it’s wonderful for the landowner and the community will get a better response for fire suppression.”

Dylan says in the past, forestry and landowners relied heavily on volunteers, DoC and forestry companies for fire suppression. Under FENZ, the different skillsets will all be brought together for a better outcome.

Rural and volunteer brigades bring their abundance of fit, capable people and the urban brigades bring those too, as well as a great command and structure.

“FENZ will smooth the way forward. Within Gisborne we’ve got a really open and positive relationship with the people in the volunteer, rural and urban brigades.

“Most of us know each other and already we’re on the same team. Now it’s official.”

RECRUITING VOLUNTEERS

Kevin Wallace’s start as a firefighter came one day in 1977 when he was roped in off the street to help in a competition between brigades. He was 19 years old and the Gisborne brigade was one man short for a hose competition against other brigades — the contests were big stuff back in the day.

Kevin stepped in to help and 40 years later he still loves the job he walked into by chance, because every day is different.

He stopped riding on the trucks in 1994 and has focused since then on recruiting volunteers — the backbone of firefighting communities from Matawai to Te Araroa.

Back when he started there was a huge waiting list to be a volunteer firefighter and the volunteer brigade was full.

“Now we are pretty much struggling to get up to the minimum. Recruiting is a big part of this job, and finding people who want to give up their time.

“It’s a vital role in all the little communities around this area. A lot of our jobs now are medical assistance, and we need to upskill our volunteers for first aid.”

The main reason it is an uphill struggle is that people these days are just so busy, says Kevin — also acknowledging that a lot is asked of volunteers. Ambulances are short on the ground up the Coast, so often it is the fire service that will respond.

He also checks the unmanned volunteer stations, and their trucks, regularly to make sure everything is as it should be in the event of an emergency.

He believes FENZ had to happen because all the different fire services had become too fractured.

“It’s going to take a while for it to bed in, but in the end it will be good. It’s major.”

Volunteers have all the gear, training and first aid required to do the job, all the communities around the Coast need to do is provide the people, he says.

“It really is good fun. We can even help our volunteers get their heavy truck licence if they want to drive the trucks.”

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, send Kevin an e-mail kevin.wallace@fire.org.nz

BIG FIRES IN GISBORNE’S HISTORY

Firefighter Ray Griffiths started out as a volunteer on April 5, 1975. He had a mate who was a volunteer, and the challenge and excitement appealed to an 18-year-old Ray. He was a carpentry apprentice for Gregory and Alen and they were fantastic, he says, for letting him respond when the general alarm sounded across the city during work hours.

“Today it’s a lot harder to release staff for volunteer turnouts — it’s just the economic climate we are now in.”

In 1978 Ray became a permanent member of staff. Over his four decades on the trucks, he remembers Gisborne’s big fires clearly.

Like the Gisborne Intermediate fire of Friday February 13, 1976. It was a major job. The main assembly hall and some classrooms were well involved by the time they got there. The school had to be rebuilt afterwards.

There was the 1978 Gisborne Refrigeration Company fire, the CR Taylor workshop fire in 1979 and more recently the Food For Thought fire on Gladstone Road in 2009.

While the community sees the firefighters who turn up as heros, they see themselves as just doing their jobs — and the first thing they do is make sure everybody is out.

Ray has been through three fire station rebuilds over his career. The station on the corner of Palmerston Road and Bright Street was rebuilt in 1976, 2006 and 2015.

Other changes have include the variety of jobs firefighters now attend — incidents from medical events, chemical and hazardous substance spills, flood and storm events, and vehicle crashes.

The job, like any, has benefits and drawbacks.

“I found it not too bad with having kids because you could spend time with them with the shift work, and still attend school stuff.

“The drawbacks were having to work weekends and nights. It wasn’t every weekend, though . . . and like for any shift worker, it’s a balance.”

But for Ray, even 42 years on, and speaking after finishing a night shift, he still thinks it’s a great job because of the camaraderie in the team, the challenges it brings, the fact every day brings something different, and that he gets to help the people of the community.

The most important thing for the people of Tairawhiti is that the service delivered by firefighters on June 30, 2017 will be exactly the same on July 1.

There will be no change to the 111 call when reporting a fire, and you will still get the same immediate response.

But behind the scenes are the biggest changes the emergency organisation has seen in more than 40 years.

From today, all urban, rural and volunteer brigades wil be under the same organisation FENZ (Fire Emergency New Zealand).

Tairawhiti area fire commander Charlie Turei says all services will be improved over the next few years.

“This has got to be the most impressive change I’ve seen in my career,” he says.

For example, there will be more specialised personnel attending hazardous substance jobs, and FENZ will move into marine responses too.

“We have a port here so that alone means we have to think about how Gisborne would respond to a sea fire.”

Commander Turei, 65, has been Tairawhiti area fire commander for 10 years — and has been in the fire service since June 6, 1975 when he walked into the Lower Hutt fire station and asked for a job. Forty-two years on, and now in a management position, Commander Turei is enthusiastic about this change — which had been talked about for years but never got off the ground.

He describes it as a “perfect storm” of minds and events, which meant it could finally happen for New Zealand to have a single entity for all firefighters.

To oversee these changes, Commander Turei will stay on for two more years in his role and then that will be it, he says.

“It would be good to achieve this and then pass it on to the good young future leaders that are coming through,” he says.

“Our community needs to know about these changes because we’re such a close-knit community.”

Prior to 1976, New Zealand had local fire boards that ran the fire service. In 1976 the first big change came when the NZ Fire Commission took over operations.

Today’s transformation is the biggest change to the organisation since then.

National MP Anne Tolley says having a single fire organisation will future-proof and strengthen fire services.

“To help with this, the Government announced $303 million in transitional funding as part of Budget 2017.”

Commander Turei has always led from the front and sees this role as no different.

He has communicated regularly with his team as the FENZ changes approached, to let them know it was going well.

“This is a huge change and a massive relief for everyone.”

There will be more personnel, more gear and more equipment, he says.

A transition team based in Wellington was created to bring FENZ into being. Head of that team, David Strong, also oversaw the recent changes to NZ Post.

Commander Turei says it has been an amazing experience to work with people of that ilk and skill on this scale of work.

“In just 12 months, David Strong and his transition team have achieved much and today we are there. What will get over the line on July 1 will work and function. It is an exciting time.”

FENZ will also incorporate, through signed operational service agreements, Department of Conservation (DoC), The NZ Defence Force (NZDF), forestry owners, land owners and Civil Aviation. All firefighters within these organisations will be able to develop strong collaborative working relationships, share training and equipment, and respond together to emergencies. There will be new logos, badges and equipment.

Mayor Meng Foon says FENZ is a great opportunity for our firefighting community to work together formally now.

BIG BENEFITS FOR RURAL BRIGADES

Principle rural fire officer Ray Dever has been involved for 50 years, so trust him when he says about FENZ, “This is magic”.

As part of the Government’s $303m budget to transition all brigades under the FENZ umbrella, $191m is for operational funding over four years to address funding gaps in rural fire services, set up local advisory committees to make sure community needs are well understood by FENZ, and provide better support for New Zealand’s 11,300 fire volunteers.

Neville Tohill is the chief fire officer at the Matawai Volunteer Fire Brigade, and he says it is about time it was all one organisation with everyone working together.

“When you have separate organisations working separately it’s too confusing. You need everyone working together.

“In the past we haven’t been resourced for medical calls or motor vehicle accidents. We’ve done them, but now we will be funded for them.”

Neville has been a volunteer firefighter for more than 35 years. He loves helping people and giving back to the community.

During year one under FENZ, $2.6m will go towards volunteer training.

ASSOCIATED ORGANISATIONS

Department of Conservation

There’s an operational service agreement still to be signed, but that’s just paperwork to complete. What FENZ means to DoC is a “one-stop-shop” that will be great for the public, says DoC community ranger Malcolm Smith.

DoC has about 500 trained firefighters around the country. The introduction of FENZ means DoC will no longer be a rural fire authority but will work under FENZ.

“It’s a really good change. It has been so confusing for the public in the past.

“If you want to have a fire and get a fire permit, now it’s a one-stop-shop and you go to FENZ. Same with having to report a rural fire — now under FENZ the response will be better, with not only rural brigades attending but the urban ones can attend now too.

The training and upskilling of DoC’s firefighters will also all be done by FENZ.

New Zealand Defence Force

Corporal Thomas Grant says their operational service agreement to become part of FENZ is positive for the NZDF.

“It’s good for us to strengthen the relationship with fire and emergency rather than going through different agencies.”

Corporal Grant says NZDF always had a good relationship with the fire service, but now “it will be even better”.

Juken New Zealand (JNL)

JNL will save tens of thousands of dollars with the introduction of FENZ, which will now pay for the training of forestry staff who fight fires.

JNL forest manager East Coast forests Dylan Foster says it means a complete change in the way the company will approach rural fires.

“It’s a boon for forestry and landowners alike,” he says.

“We were responsible for fire suppression but as of July 1, it’s FENZ.

“It’s a positive step, it’s wonderful for the landowner and the community will get a better response for fire suppression.”

Dylan says in the past, forestry and landowners relied heavily on volunteers, DoC and forestry companies for fire suppression. Under FENZ, the different skillsets will all be brought together for a better outcome.

Rural and volunteer brigades bring their abundance of fit, capable people and the urban brigades bring those too, as well as a great command and structure.

“FENZ will smooth the way forward. Within Gisborne we’ve got a really open and positive relationship with the people in the volunteer, rural and urban brigades.

“Most of us know each other and already we’re on the same team. Now it’s official.”

RECRUITING VOLUNTEERS

Kevin Wallace’s start as a firefighter came one day in 1977 when he was roped in off the street to help in a competition between brigades. He was 19 years old and the Gisborne brigade was one man short for a hose competition against other brigades — the contests were big stuff back in the day.

Kevin stepped in to help and 40 years later he still loves the job he walked into by chance, because every day is different.

He stopped riding on the trucks in 1994 and has focused since then on recruiting volunteers — the backbone of firefighting communities from Matawai to Te Araroa.

Back when he started there was a huge waiting list to be a volunteer firefighter and the volunteer brigade was full.

“Now we are pretty much struggling to get up to the minimum. Recruiting is a big part of this job, and finding people who want to give up their time.

“It’s a vital role in all the little communities around this area. A lot of our jobs now are medical assistance, and we need to upskill our volunteers for first aid.”

The main reason it is an uphill struggle is that people these days are just so busy, says Kevin — also acknowledging that a lot is asked of volunteers. Ambulances are short on the ground up the Coast, so often it is the fire service that will respond.

He also checks the unmanned volunteer stations, and their trucks, regularly to make sure everything is as it should be in the event of an emergency.

He believes FENZ had to happen because all the different fire services had become too fractured.

“It’s going to take a while for it to bed in, but in the end it will be good. It’s major.”

Volunteers have all the gear, training and first aid required to do the job, all the communities around the Coast need to do is provide the people, he says.

“It really is good fun. We can even help our volunteers get their heavy truck licence if they want to drive the trucks.”

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, send Kevin an e-mail kevin.wallace@fire.org.nz

BIG FIRES IN GISBORNE’S HISTORY

Firefighter Ray Griffiths started out as a volunteer on April 5, 1975. He had a mate who was a volunteer, and the challenge and excitement appealed to an 18-year-old Ray. He was a carpentry apprentice for Gregory and Alen and they were fantastic, he says, for letting him respond when the general alarm sounded across the city during work hours.

“Today it’s a lot harder to release staff for volunteer turnouts — it’s just the economic climate we are now in.”

In 1978 Ray became a permanent member of staff. Over his four decades on the trucks, he remembers Gisborne’s big fires clearly.

Like the Gisborne Intermediate fire of Friday February 13, 1976. It was a major job. The main assembly hall and some classrooms were well involved by the time they got there. The school had to be rebuilt afterwards.

There was the 1978 Gisborne Refrigeration Company fire, the CR Taylor workshop fire in 1979 and more recently the Food For Thought fire on Gladstone Road in 2009.

While the community sees the firefighters who turn up as heros, they see themselves as just doing their jobs — and the first thing they do is make sure everybody is out.

Ray has been through three fire station rebuilds over his career. The station on the corner of Palmerston Road and Bright Street was rebuilt in 1976, 2006 and 2015.

Other changes have include the variety of jobs firefighters now attend — incidents from medical events, chemical and hazardous substance spills, flood and storm events, and vehicle crashes.

The job, like any, has benefits and drawbacks.

“I found it not too bad with having kids because you could spend time with them with the shift work, and still attend school stuff.

“The drawbacks were having to work weekends and nights. It wasn’t every weekend, though . . . and like for any shift worker, it’s a balance.”

But for Ray, even 42 years on, and speaking after finishing a night shift, he still thinks it’s a great job because of the camaraderie in the team, the challenges it brings, the fact every day brings something different, and that he gets to help the people of the community.

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