Southern Rural Fire Authority 'model for all NZ'

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 05/08/2014
des minehan, peter dunne, mike grant

SOUNDS GOOD: Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne, centre, discusses the Southern Rural Fire Authority's amalgamated model with the authority's Southern Rural Fire Authority board chairman Des Minehan, left, and Southern Rural Fire Authority chief executive Mike Grant.

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The Southern Rural Fire Authority is a trailblazer for the way it delivers its service and the model could be rolled out nationally.

The praise comes from Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne, who has responsibility for rural and urban fire services in New Zealand.

Dunne was in Invercargill and met Southern Rural Fire Authority board directors and staff yesterday.

The authority was one of more effective rural fire authorities to have been formed by the amalgamation of several smaller authorities, he said.

It is a long-held objective of the National Rural Fire Authority to merge smaller rural fire authorities into larger rural fire districts. Amalgamation enabled rural fire services to be better managed and resources used more efficiently.

The Southern Rural Fire Authority amalgamated the rural fire responsibilities of the Southland District Council, Gore District Council, Invercargill City Council, Southern Plantations Rural Fire Authority and Department of Conservation Southland Conservancy in 2003.

"The Southern Rural Fire Authority is an impressive model for others to follow," Dunne said.

There were some issues that may not be replicated everywhere but Dunne said he wanted to meet first-hand and talk to the board about their experiences during the past decade.

"We are very keen to see the type of model applied here replicated nationally," he said. "There are very strong lessons [in the Southern Rural Fire District] for integration of the rural fire service, volunteers and the New Zealand Fire Service working together."

Southern Rural Fire Authority board chairman Des Minehan said at a national level it made sense to get larger rural fire districts up and running as soon as possible.

The Southern Rural Fire District was an example of how many different stakeholders could work effectively together, he said.

However, any amalgamation and possible integration into the New Zealand Fire Service could not undermine the work achieved by rural fire authorities.

Volunteers also had to be encouraged to join and funding issues sorted, he said.

The rural fire service had to raise its own funds under the current system, Minehan said.

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- The Southland Times

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