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Positive steps forward for fire service


Back in May this year the government called for public submissions on proposals to change the country's fire services following years of reported unrest at stations around the country.

The possible options for Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne included establishing a new rural fire authority and setting up a single organisation responsible for both rural and urban services.

Mr Dunne said one of the aims was to give volunteer firefighters more support.

A movement to upgrade the service countrywide has been motivated somewhat by recent negative publicity surrounding volunteers and paid senior officers in a number of brigades.

Changes in the service are considered long overdue by many, with little or no reform since 1947.

Mr Dunne promised that the new investment in volunteers would not affect the paid workforce.

He also said he was committed to ensuring the service had an appropriate level of funding for equipment, training, back-up and support.

The new organisation would be tasked with ensuring all staff worked more effectively together.

Over the last two years, various reports of intimidation and unfair dismissal have emerged at several brigades across the country but new proposals for dispute resolution were being developed and would be confirmed early next year.

Mr Dunne emphasised that regional committees would still have a strong voice in the new body. He aims to have the new entity up and running by mid-2017.

Locally, controversial fire officer Mike McEnaney has been suspended from all duties pending an investigation into a complaint about his behaviour in Auckland.

Northland MP Winston Peters, who was presented with the petition for McEnaney’s removal said that, by standing him down, the Fire Service had shown it was listening to the community.

"The people who've petitioned will now be satisfied their concerns have been taken seriously," he said.

"I think it is also evidence of a significant shift in the Fire Service's desire to be better aligned and in close communication with the communities they serve, in particular the volunteer sector."

A special meeting was called in Mangawhai two weeks ago by Fire Service Area Manager Wipari Henwood to “clear the air” over recent dissent that had caused a number of highly qualified volunteers to step back from their duties.

“Though there was some tension at the meeting it was generally agreed to put personalities aside and more about returning the brigade to full function in the best interests of the community because that was the reason the volunteers joined initially,” Henwood told The Focus.

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