Volunteer fire brigades are attending more medical
callouts than fires and the trend is likely to continue. Some
city firefighters say they are ''more than happy'' to do it but
the change has prompted calls for fire service funding to
change. Samantha McPherson reports.
Port Chalmers Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer
Stephen Hill says the brigade attends more medical callouts
than fires. Photo by Samantha McPherson
The number of medical callouts attended by Dunedin volunteer
fire crews has prompted calls for the fire insurance levy to
switch to a ''predictable funding base'' as everyone benefits
from having a Fire Service but not everyone pays property and
Port Chalmers Volunteer Fire Brigade attended 149 callouts
last year, of which 98 were medical. Chief Fire Officer
Stephen Hill believes the brigade is making a difference in
the community by attending medical emergencies.
''That's what we are here for. We are more than happy to
On the other side of the harbour, Portobello Volunteer Fire
Brigade attended 59 callouts, of which 30 were medical. Chief
Fire Officer Bruce Didham said the brigade was well resourced
so ''we can provide that critical first response''.
''We have a 30 to 40-minute head start on St John. Attending
medical callouts has increased over the years as the Fire
Service has become more comfortable with being a medical
However, the Insurance Council of New Zealand is opposed to
the fire insurance levy funding medical callouts.
Chief executive Tim Grafton said the levy, which provides the
Fire Service with 95% of its funding (about $320 million) a
year, should be paid by ''direct taxation or property taxes''
because ''most of the Fire Service's work has nothing to do
with putting out fires but undertaking other emergency and
non-emergency work''. New Zealand Professional Firefighters
Union national secretary Derek Best said the existing
funding mechanism was ''inappropriate and open to abuse''.
''There is no specific funding for response to non-fire
Even for fire, businesses and businesspeople under-insured
property, did not insure it or adopted ''various minimisation
schemes'', he said.
Mr Best said the firefighters' union was against total
funding through tax but ''a property-based levy is a
At present, all property owners who insure against fire pay a
levy, up to a maximum of $76 (not including GST) a year.
If you own a motor vehicle under 3.5 tonnes, you pay $6.08
excluding GST if it is insured. Commercial property owners
pay $76 per $100,000 of the insured value.