Warnings from the Union about the state of the Fire and Emergency fleet around the lack of funding, strategic planning, inadequate servicing and repair, have unfortunately come to fruition.
Several major fires occurring within a space of 2 hours on Thursday evening; a Third Alarm building fire in Henderson, a Second Alarm building fire in Silverdale and a fire inside a building in Papakura had Fire and Emergency scrambling to prioritise which fire was of greater significance to respond resources to. Incident Commanders were forced to free up aerial appliances at fires to ensure that they could be deployed to one of the other fires and left without a vital Incident Command, Control and Hazardous Materials Unit.
As members were recently advised, Auckland currently only has ONE Heavy Aerial Rescue appliance left to protect its 1.7 million people, with one being temporarily relocated to Hamilton. In the 1980’s Auckland (then a population of 804,000) had 5 Heavy Aerial Rescue appliances (3 Hydraulic Platforms and 2 Turntable Ladders) as well as 2 smaller Teleboom Elevating Monitors.
In addition to the failing aerial fleet, one of Tamaki Makaurau’s two Specialist Incident Command and Hazardous Materials Unit, based at the Central Pitt Street Fire Station, has had to be taken out of commission indefinitely due to several ongoing mechanical faults. This has left the three cities with only one of these specialist vehicles to look after the entire region. The remaining vehicle at Otara was responded to one of the fires, however, as the other Incident Command, Control and Hazardous Materials Unit was broken down, the other incidents remained without the specialist capabilities that these vehicles provide Incident Commanders and Firefighters.
The Union finds it completely unacceptable that Incident Commanders should be forced to make life and safety decisions based on broken down, unreliable and unavailable resourcing.
The public of Tamaki Makaurau and New Zealand are entitled to expect a 21st Century, first world, fit for purpose fire and emergency service that can respond to emergencies with equipment that works, and is reliable and safe to use.
Fire and Emergency purports to have spent $22.4 million “into new appliances and upgrading existing fleet”, yet we continue to have major problems with the state of the emergency fleet protecting the majority of the population in major centres right across New Zealand.
Cracks in new fire trucks, relief fire trucks older than the Firefighters that respond in them, broken down or unavailable Specialist Rescue Aerial Fire Trucks, Command, Control and Hazardous Material Units not fit for purpose, 30 brand new trucks still sitting unused since June 2021, are all symptomatic of an organisation that has no plan, leadership, or strategic direction.
Fire and Emergency’s 2021 Annual Report states that it earned $604 million from fire levies and another $25 million from other revenue and interest. This is almost double the $384 million that the predecessor organisation, the NZ Fire Service, earned in its final year of existence in 2017.
The Union wants to know what the public of New Zealand, local communities, employers and building owners are actually getting for this massive increase in fire levies placed on them.
The majority of the levy payers seem to be paying almost double but getting a significantly less emergency service than they were receiving under the old NZ Fire Service.
Where exactly are the tens of millions of additional funding earned actually going?