It was a triple celebration on Wednesday night [June 21] for volunteers from the Hastings’ 13 rural fire forces.
In a nationwide change, rural fire authorities and the New Zealand Fire Service are joining together to create Fire Emergency New Zealand from July 1. Until now, rural forces across New Zealand have been managed by councils or their equivalents going back to the early 1900s. In Hawke’s Bay the oldest rural unit is Waimarama, set up in 1953.
Last week’s celebration gave Hastings District Council the opportunity to thank the volunteers before the change, for their considerable efforts in keeping the district safe and putting out blazes over more than 64 years.
Mayor Lawrence Yule told the crowd that the fires suffered across the district at the end of this year’s summer underlined the importance of the rural brigades.
At one stage our rural firefighters, with help from their urban counterparts and volunteers from across New Zealand, were fighting major blazes on three fronts, Waimarama, Te Hauke and Puketitiri, as well as responding to smaller fires over many days.
Mr Yule said that rural fire fighters and the communities that kept them going had “played a huge role” over the decades.
“They have fundraised for better fire equipment and fire sheds, as well as seeking charitable grants and funding from various sources . . . Councillors and Council’s Rural Community Board appreciate the contribution that you all make to your communities and out district.”
He also thanked the families who supported the firefighters, as well as employers who released their volunteer staff for firefighting duties. “We also acknowledge that many of our volunteers are self-employed and lose income and opportunities as they carry out this service for us.”
“We would like to express Council’s gratefulness for all the hard work that has been carried out, and will continue to be carried out in the exciting new era of a combined fire force.”
On the same evening the brigades received a brand new All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) for rural fire fighting, donated by the McHardy family. Audrey McHardy presented the ATV in recognition of the efforts of the volunteers who fought the Waimarama fire in February. Those efforts meant a large part of the family’s pine forest was saved.
The evening also celebrated Volunteer Week, which at this time every year recognises and celebrates the contribution of all volunteers across New Zealand.
What does the change to fire services mean?
From July 1, the public will notice little change to the service that is delivered. Volunteer fire brigades out in the rural areas will continue to support their communities from their current stations. The only fire engine, water tanker and crew which will move to the fire station in Maraekakaho Rd will be the Heretaunga unit, currently housed on Council grounds in Lyndon Rd.
Council’s Principal Rural Fire Officer Trevor Mitchell said it was an exciting move. “It will bring everybody who is in the business of fighting fires and helping with emergencies together. It will also be easier for the public, with things like applying for a fire permit, all available from one point.”
Fire information will continue to be available on Council’s website, with links to the new Fire Emergency New Zealand public information site: www.fireandemergency.nz and for fire permit information www.checkitsallright.nz
4 October 2017
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