New scheme to be tried in Otago

Hoping the establishment of a local advisory committee will lead to positive changes in the way...
Hoping the establishment of a local advisory committee will lead to positive changes in the way Fire and Emergency New Zealand operates are (from left) Otago and Southland region manager Mike Grant, fire risk management principal adviser Isaia Piho and East Otago area commander Laurence Voight. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Otago is the first fire region in the country to make changes in response to the changing climate and more extreme weather events.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) has responded to the growing range of challenges in emergency preparation, response and recovery with the creation of local advisory committees to ensure a community voice is represented in their decision-making.

Fire risk management principal adviser Isaia Piho said the local advisory committee would be made up of about eight members of the public who would communicate to Fenz the issues and values of a community from a local perspective.

"The focus of Fenz is widening from not only responding to emergencies, but also to reducing risk and building community resilience.

"By understanding each community's issues, risks and needs, we can inform our local and national planning."

Seven regions across the country would trial the committees, Mr Piho said.

"Otago was chosen to be the first because it is very complex.

"We have a diverse landscape with agriculture, land blocks, a city with a university, tourism and a lot of culture and heritage.

"Otago will set the benchmark for how we work in other areas."

Mr Piho said the information gathered from local advisory committees would enable Fenz to build local plans tailored to an area which would help it resource and understand localities better.

"The committees will guide us to undertake preventive action as well as responding to events.

"Through understanding our communities and people in them, we can do our job better."

A Fenz spokesman said fire and emergency personnel were responding to an ever-widening range of events including medical incidents, vehicle crashes, weather events and search and rescue.

"Ensuring our services meet the needs of all New Zealanders now and in the future requires input from the communities we're there to support."

The committees would be advisory only, and would not be involved in governance, management or operational matters and decisions, he said.

Mr Piho said the prerequisites for committee members would be wanting to make their community safer and more resilient, being well-connected and having a good understanding of local risks and issues.

Committee members would meet quarterly.

Nominations open December 1 and close on January 31 and it was hoped the Otago committee would be up and running by mid-2020.

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