Call to address state of firefighting fleet

A Dunedin MP has called on the Government to intervene as breakdowns in equipment and talks have left Dunedin firefighters crewing the South Island’s only large aerial appliance while further stoppages loom.

Dunedin National list MP Michael Woodhouse said he was invited to the Dunedin Central Fire Station to hear concerns held by firefighters at the start of the week.

Firefighters raised issues with the state of appliances, pumps not working properly and uniforms not being up to scratch.

They also showed him their large 32m aerial appliance, which was the only operational one in the South Island after the one in Christchurch broke down due to transmission issues.

That was was not the only malfunctioning piece of kit in the organisation.

"They showed me a standard appliance, which was just seven years old, that the fire officer sitting on the left-rear seat had to open the door using a pair of pliers," Mr Woodhouse said.

Shortly after his visit he was informed there had been problems with one of the pumps at a callout.

It was a "a concerning state of affairs" that the tools firefighters relied on were not up to scratch in the view of their users, Mr Woodhouse said.

Crews also raised concerns that the merger of the rural, volunteer and paid arms of the fire service were not going as intended.

A lack of planning, and resourcing going to building up head offices rather than frontline services, were also flagged as issues.

"We’ve got a 20th-century asset fleet trying to provide a 21st-century service — that’s got to change," he said.

Senior Firefighter Greg Ewing directs water during a training exercise on the only large aerial...
Senior Firefighter Greg Ewing directs water during a training exercise on the only large aerial appliance available for use in the South Island. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
He believed Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti needed to front up and say what she would do to improve "a very, very difficult industrial situation", along with service and fleet issues.

"There doesn’t seem to be a joined-up plan and that’s really worrying our fire service", Mr Woodhouse said.

In a statement, Ms Tinetti agreed the significant welfare concerns of firefighters needed to be addressed with urgency.

It was disappointing that Fenz and the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union (NZPFU) had been unable to reach an positive outcome in collective bargaining negotiations, Ms Tinetti said.

After talks stalled on Thursday, the NZPFU said they would escalate their industrial action with two one-hour stoppages to be held on August 19 and 26.

She was working with both parties to try to find a way forward and her expectation was that Fenz would continue to work towards finding a solution with the union.

"I am hopeful that the mediation, set down to occur before the strike, will find such a solution," she said.

Fenz was an independent crown entity, and 97% of their funding came from insurance levies.

"The offer that Fenz has made to union members has now exhausted their available funding," Ms Tinetti said.

Fenz had been asked to ensure that for the two one-hour strikes on August 19 and 26 there were contingency plans in place for the metropolitan areas which will be affected by stoppages.

oscar.francis@odt.co.nz

 

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