RWNZ has appeared before the Government Administration Select Committee discussing the submission lodged expressing its strong support for the Fire and Emergency Bill.
RWNZ Vice President Fiona Gower says, this Bill represents an important step towards modernization of the fire services, ensuring it remains a fit for purpose service going forward and one that is appropriately funded.
“Rural fire brigades are doing an exceptional job in the community, but they are struggling to cope with increasing demands and face significant funding gaps in recruiting and training paid and unpaid workers to the service”. The reality today, is that rural fire services are called upon to perform a variety of services in the community, well beyond their traditional roles of ‘putting out fires’.
In rural areas, the local fire brigade is often first on the scene to respond to traffic accidents and medical emergencies. They provide vital assistance in search and rescue efforts and in responding to severe weather events and natural disasters. RWNZ have high hopes that the additional government funding promised by this Bill and the unification of rural and urban fire services will go some distance towards addressing these issues.
In their submission RWNZ, note two areas of the proposed Bill that they believe warrant further consideration by the Committee. Fiona Gower says, “We think that the role of the fire service in responding to adverse weather events and natural disasters should properly be recognized as a ‘core function’ under the Bill. This is a core role of the service in rural parts of New Zealand where events like the 2015 North Canterbury droughts and flooding are becoming an increasing and more frequent reality. It is important that the role that that fire services take in responding to such events is appropriately recognized and funded”. The submission also encourages the Committee to consider whether a general taxation model of funding, would be a fairer approach to the current model, which is based on insurance levies.