- By Julia Wade
A vital local service has received two big changes to its force recently, with permission to clear ground for a long-awaited new premises and a well-deserved promotion for a long-serving local volunteer.
Newly-promoted Chief Fire Officer Robert Leslie reports that Mangawhai Volunteer Fire Brigade (MVFB) is one step closer to obtaining their much-needed new station, after Kaipara District Council granted a lease and resource consent recently to allow clearance of the Molesworth Drive site.
“This new station will enhance the morale of the whole Brigade,” he says. “We’ll be able to be more social and have other brigades over which we haven’t been able to do before. It will also be great to be closer to St John as we work together well and close proximity will enhance that relationship… be like a central hub if a natural disaster strikes.”
Based on a design template used for stations nationwide, the new building, estimated to cost Fire and Emergency New Zealand [FENZ] over one million dollars, will house two firefighting appliances and equipment, the community-funded van as well as an office and volunteers kitchen, bathroom and lounge.
“We now just have to submit a finalised plan to Council for a building consent… and Orang-Otang Tree Trimmers began tree removal on May 1. I believe the station will take at least six months to build so we’re looking at moving in early 2019,” he says. “To date we have 80 per cent of the funds needed for the new van building so still need to do a bit of fundraising… we’re nearly there.”
Formerly Kaiwaka Brigade’s Deputy Chief before becoming Mangawhai’s Officer-in-Charge, Leslie has dedicated 30 years of voluntary time to the firefighting service. His promotion to Fire Chief on April 19 came through FENZ’s recent implantation to standarise and combine urban and rural stations.
MVFB’s status has now changed from a rural auxiliary of Whangarei to a full fire urban service, allowing the brigade to manage their own area without input from Whangarei and to appoint higher ranking officers – a chief, deputy and senior station officer – Leslie says.
“It brings us into line with other brigades in Kaipara. Mangawhai Brigade is in a good space with full membership numbers. We now have 20 volunteers and have been getting everyone up to standard. We’re in a good position which was another reason for FENZ’s decision,” Leslie says. “Feels really good to be selected for Fire Chief, it’s a reflection from the team as they had a say whether I got the job or not!”
MVFB’s Deputy Fire Chief will be announced in the next few weeks he says.
“It’s all great progress and we wouldn’t be this far without the fantastic support from our wonderful community!”
Newly promoted Chief Fire Officer Robert Leslie at Mangawhai Volunteer Fire Brigade’s future building site, next to St John, on Molesworth Drive.
“This new station will enhance the morale of the whole Brigade.”