FENZ walks away offering only the equivalent meager $13 gross a week per Firefighter

In 2018  FENZ and the NZPFU signed terms of settlement that included setting up a Taskforce to consider how to address FENZ’s inability to recruit and retain sufficient firefighters and the issues affecting all NZPFU members living and working in Auckland.

The Taskforce investigation found Professional career firefighters and other staff face a unique combination of challenges living and working in Auckland, compounding the stresses of rewarding, yet demanding work, and in the resulting Report warned without intervention, Fire and Emergency’s ability to meet its legislated objectives is at risk.

“In Auckland, career firefighters, ComCen personnel, fire risk management officers and other classifications covered by the CEA (i.e. uniformed and ComCen personnel) are struggling. Due to the challenges of where they live and work, many don’t find the job as rewarding as their peers in other districts.   The wider pressures of living and working in Auckland are leading to resignations, transfer requests, increased personal stress, and recruitment challenges. The Auckland situation is also undermining organisational capability..”

The Report was the result of a two-year project. 

Throughout this process FENZ representatives repeatedly claimed that funding would be available to address the issues and implement options raised through the evidential inquiry undertaken by the Auckland Taskforce.  Funding was never set aside to implement any options.

FENZ representatives repeatedly claimed that there would be the provision of ongoing funding to address the issues and implement options raised through the evidential inquiry undertaken by the Auckland Taskforce. There is no ongoing budget.

The minutes of the first meeting of the Auckland Taskforce on the 20TH November 2018 record the then Director People and Capability Brendan Nally and FENZ CFO Brett Warwick provided an overview which included:

  • Brett and Brendan represent (FENZ CEO) Rhys and the Senior Leadership Team who are very serious about this
  • Funding will be committed to the working group to ensure it can achieve the required outcomes
  • Thinking also about how the “Auckland” solutions may be implemented across other future growing cities.

After 2 years of research and $100,000s spent on consultants, specialist economists and project managers FENZ is now refusing to implement any of the recommendations of the Taskforce.

FENZ is only offering $400,000 in total to address the issues evidenced in the report.   That offer equates to about $13.00 gross a week per firefighter whereas the consultants report provided evidence that just by living and working in Auckland our members are disadvantaged by $10,000 per person due to the expensive housing/living/travel costs.

The NZPFU representatives on the Auckland Taskforce invested hundreds of hours including personal time to canvass the membership, undertake the research, meet with FENZ-commissioned consultants, external agencies that could give insight into some options and with the FENZ representatives on the Taskforce drafted a report that set out the evidence and listed Recommendations with options in orders of priority.  

That Taskforce Report was accepted by the Auckland Taskforce Governance Group on 1 November 2019 and Brendan Nally and DCE Finance and Business Operations Darryl Purdy presented the report to the SLT on 6 November 2019.  On the 12th November 2019 the NZPFU asked for confirmation of the SLT had received the report and had determined a proposal for the recommendations that could be implemented quickly and a proposal for the recommendations that would required planned implementation.

On 12 November 2019 Brendan Nally confirmed the report had gone to ELT and he was getting some cost/benefit analysis done.  He wrote “I am hopeful to get some initiatives over the line quickly”.  This was untrue as no cost/benefit was being done. FENZ has yet to get anything across the line.

On 9 January 2020 the NZPFU followed up asking for the Recommendations that he thought he could get across the line quickly, and what cost/benefit analysis was being done.   No answer.

Finally after repeated pushing for a meeting, the Auckland Taskforce and Governance Group met on 6 March 2020.  At that meeting it was confirmed:

  • That no cost/benefit analysis had been done at all. Therefore the ELT had not been given the full picture or all relevant information.
  • Some very general costings had been done on some of the recommendations. These were only verbally presented.
  • There were no initiatives that FENZ was intending to get across the line quickly.
  • It became clear at that meeting that Brendan did not understand some of the Recommendations or the value in those recommendations.  Therefore Brendan and Darryl could not have accurately reflected the report to the ELT.
  • FENZ did agree to travel allowance improvements but only for overtime shifts. This would not address the costs and time of travel that was evidenced in the report.  It was estimated this was a cost of $400,000.

At that meeting it was agreed:

  • FENZ representatives would undertake further detailed costings including cost benefit analysis to take into account the benefits and savings for FENZ in current working practices and some of the options proposed.  They never did any cost/benefit analysis or provide further detailed costings.
  • FENZ would provide in written correspondence to the NZPFU its current response to the Taskforce Report options within a week and the NZPFU would respond in writing.  They never did.  On 20 May they provided a table that outlined with negative or positive responses but no detail on the reasons for that response.
  • The Taskforce and Governance Group to meet again to discuss the issues covered in correspondence, costing and cost benefit analysis with a view to finalising the outcomes of the Taskforce and any necessary implementation plan. Dates were discussed and it was our expectation that dates would be provided for a meeting in April 2020.  This did not happen.  Brendan Nally later refused to meet in person and  it was only after the NZPFU and FENZ Managers pushed for a meeting in person that he agreed.  That meeting took place on 19 June 2020.

At the 19th June 2020 the Auckland Taskforce (NZPFU and FENZ Auckland Managers) presented an option for the immediate implementation on the basis that there would be planning for the implementation of other Recommendations.  We provided the costings (approximately $2.5 million) for a travel allowance based on 1 hour Senior Firefighter SO qualified for every shift worked stating it would be acceptable with an intention to discuss and programme the implementation of other options as outlined in the Taskforce Report.  That there were benefits for FENZ to implement this allowance including economic benefits from the current practices of firefighters staying on station longer to ensure minimum staffing was maintained during the change of shift periods.

Brendan Nally undertook to take this option back to ELT with detail on the benefit to FENZ including the current savings to FENZ with firefighters staying longer than their paid hours to wait for firefighters arriving from other stations to undertake overtime.  This and the voluntary jumping times to ensure the continuity of minimum staffing meant some firefighters were spending additional hours unpaid at work.  

On 3 July Brendan Nally informed the Auckland Taskforce that he and Darryl had advocated on behalf of the Taskforce but “clear direction from ELT is we do not have the authority to commit to significant on-going cost in the order of $2 million per annum that was discussed.” Brendan has since confirmed  he never had the savings of the voluntary additional hours being undertaken by the firefighters to maintain minimum staffing calculated. Therefore Brendan and Darryl could not have presented those savings to ELT.

The end result is FENZ is walking away from the project only offering a total of $400,000 to fund a response to the issues evidenced in the report.  This equates to approximately $13 gross per firefighter a week.  Nothing

This will not do anything to address any of the issues FENZ and its staff (including Comms Centre dispatchers, FRMOs and trainers face in Auckland:

Some of the statistics in the report include:

  • Auckland population growth (+21 percent between 2008-2018) is almost double the rest of New Zealand (12 percent).
  • An Auckland career firefighter currently serves an average of 3,394 people, twice the rate for the rest of New Zealand (1,601 people).
  • Population per firefighter has increased by 11 percent in Auckland.
  • The number of lost shifts in Auckland due to work accidents (as distinct to illness) per firefighter in Auckland is more than twice the rate elsewhere
  • In 2018 Waitemata responded to 1,598 medical calls (the most nation-wide) and Counties-Manukau responded to 1,193 medical calls (206 percent increase since 2013)
As at July 2019 the cost of living in Auckland was much higher than other areas:
  • Auckland’s real basic expenditure increased by $151 per week from 2008–2018, compared with $104 in Canterbury and $97 in Wellington.
  • Median house prices in Auckland are on average 32 percent higher than other major New Zealand cities in 2018, with average weekly mortgage payments $276 per week higher in Auckland.
  • The average rent in Auckland is $560 a week, $45 higher than Wellington and $181 higher than Christchurch. The median weekly rent for Auckland personnel in our survey was $551.
  • Median household travel expenditure in Auckland is on average 33 percent higher than other major North Island cities in 2018.
  • Residents in Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Tauranga and Queenstown have on average $9,800 more discretionary income per annum than those in Auckland.

From 2008 to 2018, Auckland average household income increased nine percent, mortgage payments increased 15 percent and basic expenditure increased 34 percent. The net effect is a real cost of living increase in Auckland.

Travel costs for our are higher and it takes longer to get to work
  • Auckland career firefighters average 1.5 hours of commuting per day. Some leave home hours before due to ensure they are there their start time.
  • The Auckland fuel tax contributes to Auckland’s 32% higher median household transportation costs (compared to other major New Zealand cities).
It is more difficult to recruit in Auckland
  • In 2019, Fire and Emergency try to find locally-based candidates for Auckland, but are barely able to attract enough quality candidates to progress even two per vacancy to the interview stage. In a 2019 recruitment round, 16 people were interviewed for nine positions, and only eight were recommended for employment

Retention of career firefighters is down in Auckland compared to the rest of the country. The annual retention rate decreased in Auckland is 4.1% between 2013 and 2018, compared to the national retention rate decreasing by 3.4%

    The options recommended by the Taskforce are below – attached is FENZ’s written response:

    In unity,
    Wattie Watson
    National Secretary


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