Fireman stood down in Maori words row

A volunteer firefighter has been stood down for allegedly covering up Maori words on his uniform.

Long-serving Canterbury fireman Nigel Thomas was stood down from operational duties on October 16 after colleagues noticed the Maori words "whakaratonga iwi" – meaning "service to people" – below the Fire Service crest had been covered.

Canterbury regional commander Rob Saunders said Mr Thomas he had been asked to rectify the issue by Leeston Fire Brigade chief fire officer Noel Thian.

He had yet to do so, and had been stood down from operational duties, meaning he could not attend callouts.

Mr Saunders said volunteers had rules they agreed to abide by.

The Fire Service was committed to representing all sections of the community "and we very much value the input of all ethnic groups into our brigades".

The words "whakaratonga iwi" had been included under the Fire Service crest and logo for many years. "We do take seriously any impact on our crest and brand," he said.

The incident would be dealt with internally.

It is understood Mr Thomas, a postman in the Leeston area, is alleged to have covered up the Maori words using a black marker.

Last night he said the issue had been resolved. "I have fixed it," he said, but declined to elaborate and would not comment when asked why he had covered up the words.

He confirmed there was a meeting tonight with brigade staff.

The Press