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Ashhurst Fire Service appeals siren's silencing

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 11:00 19/07/2014

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The Fire Service is appealing to the Environment Court to overturn a decision that could silence the Ashhurst siren.

The decision on the Palmerston North City Council's proposed District Plan change affecting the institutional zone, which was released last month, turned down a Fire Service request to exempt it from noise controls.

The planning commissioners found the siren was being sounded in breach of the rules, to the detriment of neighbouring residents who were disturbed by the noise.

They advised the Fire Service to comply with the rules, and recommended it move to using pagers and cell phones to alert volunteer firefighters.

Ashhurst residents rallied in defence of the siren, with 619 people signing a petition supporting it.

The petition was started by Tracey Pinfold, a fourth generation Ashhurst resident, who lives three doors down from the fire station.

She said she had lived there for 15 years, raising a family who slept through the siren at night.

Pinfold said the siren was not just an effective way to alert volunteers, but an accepted and welcome feature of small town life.

It warned other people moving around the village to be vigilant and give way to those trying to get to the fire station quickly, and to keep out of the way of the emergency vehicle that would soon be on the move.

It also reassured people who were in danger or had called 111 that help was on the way.

She said the Fire Service decision to appeal was fantastic news, and would have the support of the petitioners.

"I know that the wives of the fire crew in particular will be very happy about it. They have been most concerned for their husbands and other family members."

Pinfold said most of the people in the community were happy for the siren to continue.

She said many people were disappointed the community was not consulted before the commissioners made their decision.

A few people had opposed signing the petition, she said. The people who complained about the siren waking them at night tended to be recent migrants to the town.

Pinfold said some of them had changed their minds when it was explained to them how important the siren was to alert the village to an emergency and to call volunteers to the station.

"In parts of this community, surrounded as we are by hill country, there are places where cell phones and pagers don't always work."

Fire Service region manager, assistant national commander Ian Pickard, said the service would continue to discuss options with the city council to find a solution that suited the community.

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"In the meantime, we have lodged an appeal in support of our operational need to use sirens as a backup warning system for fire and other emergencies."

- Manawatu Standard

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