New emergency service launched

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Ashburton hosted the official launch of new entity Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) on Saturday, with Government Minister Peter Dunne describing the day as “momentous” in the country’s firefighting history.

Dunne, along with top brass from the new formed fire service body, and a large turnout of local firefighters, packed into a marquee at the A & P Showgrounds for day one of the newly amalgamated urban and rural fire services.

The Minister said New Zealand’s fire fighting history stretched back 150 years and Ashburton had been able to call on its own volunteers for more than 140 years, since its urban brigade’s formation in 1874.

Urban and rural firefighters alike had the same spirit that motivated the early settlers.

Horse drawn pumps and buckets had been traded for 4WD tankers, defibrillators and hydraulic extracting tools and the work of firefighters had changed as communities had changed, he said.

New Zealand firefighters had attended 3824 structure fires and 3402 vegetation fires since July last year.

They had also attended 8832 medical calls 4597 motor vehicle accidents and 1801 incidents related to floods or storms over the same period.

FENZ had been formed to provide a modern service structure for fire fighting that was backed by new legislation and funding, said Peter Dunne.

He said there been 16 previous attempts at amalgamation and this historic day had been long overdue.

Ashburton was “ahead of the game” in terms of merging of their services.

Peter Dunne threw in humour towards the end of his speech saying while firefighters rated top in the most respected professions in New Zealand, his job as a politician “did not rate quite so high”.

The FENZ launch followed a locally organised procession of fire appliances along East Street to celebrate the fire amalgamation.