Tis’ the season, or so the saying goes. However, whilst most workers are enjoying some well earnt time off over the Christmas break, Career firefighters, our members are leaving their families and loved ones at home and turning up to work to protect the community and enjoy the company of their second family.

I’m fortunate enough to not be rostered on this Christmas or New Year, but at this time of year especially I am thinking of all the career firefighters, Comcen staff, FRMO and VSO members who came before us and those that will come after us. So many of our employment conditions were hard fought by our predecessors, and I certainly feel a responsible for maintaining and building upon those conditions for future firefighters. There is a legacy to maintain and it is all of our responsibility to leave this organisation and job in better shape than what we found it.

It is clear the job is changing, and it is our job to make sure that as it changes standards are upheld; conditions yes, but also training, which must be maintained to high levels, as we embrace assessment and competencies to the professional levels that we know we have. In addition, we need to ensure that response levels are upheld and improved, That the people we support, internally and externally are done so to the highest possible level.

We have an Organisation and a Union that we can be extremely proud of. We must continue to be engaged in all aspects of the job and beyond. Looking to the future for opportunities and threats and positioning and responding accordingly.

Two weeks ago saw the 30th National Conference of the NZPFU. It was held in Christchurch and was extremely well attended and all up we had 8 first time attendees. I have never seen that many new faces at Conference and is hopefully a sign of things to come. The conference understands, recognizes and will continue to work towards the changing diversity (age ,gender ethnicity etc) being reflected at conference level. This diversity however starts at a local level and we encourage people to engage and stand for union roles or chances to represent our union because we all understand the value of experience, however, we need to look to the future, we need to look around us and think about who is going to take our places in the coming years?

The role of a Union Rep has changed over the years, yes, we are still advocating for members on disputes, interpretations of the CEA, and negotiating terms and conditions, but there is now more pre-emptive engagement that is happening not just at a National level but also at Regional and Area levels as well. We value this engagement and are prioritising building relationships, both externally with management and also internally within the NZPFU. To this end we are developing a MOU for engagement between every Local and the National Committee. We see this as the beginning of the proposed piece of work mid next year in Auckland around setting our Union Values and a code of conduct amongst ourselves.

It is with this type and level of engagement that we can and will influence the Union and the Organisation as a whole. This is the exciting part of being a Union representative, influencing the future. Thank you to all the members who have contacted us indicating your expertise and willingness to participate as SME’s on the many varied projects that are running or about to start.

Finally, at the Conference this year, we recognised 6 Life Honorary membership nominations.

Owen Woodman - Wellington
Mike Balmer - Christchurch
John Sandison - Kawerau
Pat Hogan - Gisborne
Brent Single - Napier (50years to the day)
Derek Best - Ex National Secretary

I know all of these gentlemen and can attest to their undying loyalty and courage for the causes of Firefighters and the Union. Without people like this in our organisation we would have been far worse off.

Special mention of Derek Best as the outgoing National Secretary of 34 years service. His service was recognised by a South Westland Pounamu Mere. Hand carved by Alex Sands in Hamilton and named Ruaumoko by Barry Thomas from Gisborne. The Mere specifically signifying the warrior traits that Derek has shown over the years and matched with the name which signifies earthquakes, violent and aggressive but also contains the potential for growth and warmth. Derek’s life Honorary membership was passed unanimously by standing ovation.

I am extremely buoyant about the future of our Union, especially now that our management team has been formally confirmed.Wattie our Secretary has hit the ground running holding the Area Management in Christchurch to account and building relationships as we speak.Congratulations to Joe Stanley our new Vice President who brings contrasting knowledge, energy and skills to the mix. I genuinely believe that the complimentary skills of this group of individuals will represent the interests and views of the members well.As we navigate the future, we respectfully maintain an eye on the past, but we are also mindful of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us.

Please take care over this holiday season, careful on the roads, at work and with all your families.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Stay safe

Ian Wright  
New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union

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