Brigades' fundraising water deliveries run dry

Last updated 05:00 14/02/2014

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A long-standing practice of fire brigades delivering potable water to parched residents for a donation is coming to an end and another income stream will be needed to plug the gap.

The practice was thrust into the spotlight this week when the driver of a laden tanker from Cambridge lost control and rolled on rural Te Miro Rd during a delivery run.

Many commercial water retailers perceived the practice as direct competition and that was not what the Fire Service wanted, Waikato district fire commander Roy Breeze said.

The few Waikato brigades that delivered water now had just under a year to replace that income stream with an alternative, he said.

It is easy to see how commercial operators would perceive the deliveries as unfair competition.

They evolved from responsibilities for town and country fires - the Fire Service covers urban area emergencies whereas councils are supposed to cover the rural ones. However, there are agreements in place for urban fire services to support rural fire authorities.

Most councils fully fund a number of tankers but some brigades raise funds for extra water carrying capacity.

These tankers are owned by individual brigades and they are known as "unsupported donated assets".

Councils partly fund their annual cost of up to $15,000 and also allow some to access the municipal water supply for deliveries as another form of support.

"I feel for the brigades who work hard to provide this extra capability over and above what we can give them," Mr Breeze said.

"But even though it's not a fire service vehicle, people still think it is and we don't want to be seen to be in competition with commercial operators . . . All my brigades in Waikato have just under a year left to find other sources of funding and I'm helping them."

Mr Breeze said the water donation funds were used to run the tanker.

Cambridge Waikato Water owner Barry Brewer was not worried about the brigade's deliveries.

"They give us quite a bit of work because they only get volunteer drivers when they can get them, so what they can't do they pass on to us," he said.

"We're happy to work together here in Cambridge. There's probably a few in other areas who kick up about it.

"At the end of the day, it's their free time they're using to fight other people's problems, and if they can make a dollar here and there to look after themselves then I'm happy for them."

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- Waikato Times

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