UNTENABLE EARTHQUAKE RISK AT TAURANGA FIRE STATION - FENZ MUST ACT NOW

For a decade FENZ (and its predecessor NZFS) has known the Tauranga Fire Station only has an 18% NBS earthquake rating with firefighters accommodated in the proximity of the most compromised structural wall.  For years the NZPFU Local has been battling for progress and relocation while the station is strengthened to at least the required 67% NBS or demolished and built on a suitable site.  There have been other investigations including a 2020 visual assessment of the cracks in the building but FENZ has yet to act on the various recommendations.

The Tauranga Local was informed an alarm system was installed to monitor the structure.  We understand the alarm was triggered with the Taupo earthquake and aftershocks in November 2022 which included an earthquake registering 5.7.  However, we understand that there has not been any structural assessment of the building since those quakes and alert.

About 2am this morning firefighters again woke to a strong earthquake which registered 4.8 on the Richter scale centred just south of Te Aroha.  There have been a few aftershocks since.

Today the NZPFU informed FENZ we were commencing Worksafe processes to ensure our members and anyone else working in or around the station were not subjected to the ongoing very real risk to health and safety.

  • We will be working with a HSR over the weekend to commence the Provisional Improvement Notice process. 
  • We are also considering actioning the right to cease unsafe work in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

Those processes and considerations may result in the Union notifying of a refusal to work in, from or around the Tauranga Station which will have significant ramifications for the location of resources to respond to the community if we do not see urgent and effective action from FENZ to protect the lives and wellbeing of our members.  Any refusal to work in, around or from Tauranga station will have immediate and significant emergency response ramifications as a an appropriate location for the fire appliances and equipment, accommodation of firefighters and other staff will be needed.

FENZ National Commander Russell Wood has provided an initial response stating he lead a discussion yesterday (Thursday) regarding the re-build and the importance of urgency.  He indicated we would soon receive a more detailed response.

The first action must be the relocating all those that work and are accommodated at the Tauranga Station to a safe location and that must be done with urgency.

  • The building’s rating has not been assessed since 2013 and given recent seismic activity the abysmal 18% NBS rating may be out of date.  The structure may have been further compromised.
  • The building has not been fit for purpose for at least a decade.
  • There has not been any structural assessment of the building since Taupo earthquakes in November 2022 which triggered a structural alarm system.  That system was supposed to be a safety measure and action should have been taken immediately.

There is a very real and foreseeable risk with ongoing seismic activity.  With good reason our members are increasingly anxious about their safety with some avoiding night shift on that Station.

There is a significant risk to ability to maintain emergency response to the community.

We will also be making sure the Tauranga City Council understands there is a serious risk to the ability of firefighters to be able to provide emergency response from the station post a seismic event.  Any significant event could mean the fire appliances and equipment cannot be accessed or deployed.

The risk is too high.  FENZ must act now.

Today is the anniversary of the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquakes in which thousands were injured and 256 died.

On the 22 February we will mark the 12th anniversary of the 2011 6.3 magnitude Christchurch earthquake in which 256 perished and many more injured.  The fatal quake was an aftershock of a 7.4 magnitude earthquake on the 4th September 2010 and a subsequent Royal Commission which recommended legislative and regulatory changes to require the assessment and enforcement of standards for structures. 

We will keep Tauranga members informed of the progress of this matter including any response by FENZ and any action taken by the NZPFU.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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