Criticised Fire Service boss moves to HQ
A Christchurch Fire Service boss who was criticised for his absence and failure to lead effectively immediately after the February 2011 quake has a new role in Wellington.
Rob Saunders, who was the Christchurch regional manager, is now director of innovation and business integration at Fire Service National Headquarters.
The firefighters' union called on him to resign or be dumped after a damning internal report on Fire Service management's response to the February earthquake was made public in October last year.
The internal inquiry found there was a "significant disconnect" between regional area management and staff, which was of such concern that a review of management structure was needed.
Some firefighters acted in isolation and had not assigned roles or established a management centre to operate from during the initial stages, the internal report found.
Professional Fire Fighters' Union southern president Denis Fitzmaurice said at the time that Saunders lived near the central station and was there within the hour, but was "shunted aside after a couple of hours" because he was "not up to it".
At the time, acting national commander Paul McGill said union criticism of Saunders' performance after the February quake was unwarranted and unfounded. However, Fire Service national commander Paul Baxter said yesterday that he had "negotiated for him [Saunders] to step aside".
"There is absolutely no doubt there were issues that are insurmountable with the current people that were in place at the time. I was able to negotiate with Rob to step aside to allow the organisation to move on without his presence, which was obviously a hindrance to relationships being improved."
Baxter made the comments at a media briefing about an independent Fire Service review of its management in the first 12 hours of its response to the earthquake, made public yesterday.
He said pre-existing tensions between management and firefighters shaped the way that Christchurch Fire Service executives responded to the disaster on the day.
Saunders' Christchurch role has been advertised, and is being covered by former assistant national commander Trevor Brown.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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