A parliamentary select committee has overseen a bill that would overhaul the Fire Service and replace legislation that has barely changed for decades.
The Fire and Emergency New Zealand Bill would repeal the Fire Service Act 1975 and the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977.
The bill seeks to establish a single, unified fire services organisation for New Zealand. It was introduced following two reviews of the fire services that were carried out in 2012 and 2015. The bill would enable changes to be made to fire services legislation that has not substantially changed since the 1940s.
The Government Administration Committee’s report on the bill recommends that it be passed with amendment and says reform of the fire services would promote flexibility, adaptability, and efficiency.
The organisation that would be established by the bill would be named Fire and Emergency New Zealand, or FENZ. The renaming is intended to reflect the wide range of services that firefighters provide. FENZ would remain a Crown entity. It would combine rural and urban fire services, and establish local advisory committees to provide regional advice to FENZ on national and regional issues.
There are currently a variety of funding sources for rural fire services. The principal source of funding for FENZ, should the bill be passed, would be a levy paid on insurance for property. The bill also aims to improve support for volunteers, placing them in a direct relationship with FENZ.
Additionally, the bill would:
- provide for the objectives, functions, operating principles, and powers of FENZ;
- facilitate changes for the design and operational policy of FENZ;
- make changes to update the legal mandate of the fire services to reflect both fire and non-fire functions.
The bill’s first reading was referred to the committee on 5 July 2016, with submissions closing on 18 August 2016. There were 104 submissions.