With a shake up in the way our rural fire service is managed, there are issues which will need to be sorted for our community.

At present, urban and rural fire services are organised and delivered separately, but in the biggest shake up the fire service has faced since the 1940s, the Government has agreed to bring urban and rural fire services together into one unified fire services organisation.

"One issue for council and ratepayers is how the value of our rural fire assets will be recognised and the fact our rural firefighters are the key services in Civil Defence events," Tararua District Council's chief executive, Blair King, told the Dannevirke News.

"Some councils, such as ours, have invested in rural resilience, including gear and back up, while others have struggled with that. Our community values the ability of our rural firefighters to protect life and property and in the case of the Akitio and Herbertville volunteer firefighters, during a tsunami warning they're the first on the beaches to clear people."


One contentious issue is how the transfer of ownership of assets owned by councils and volunteer rural fire forces will be handled. Tararua District Council has already discussed this issue, declining to donate this equipment to the new entity, while continuing to fund its depreciation and operation. "The power of the rural fire crews will no longer be with the council, but Civil Defence and emergency management will remain with us," Mr King said. "So that's why we're not looking at gifting the equipment [to the new merged fire service]."

With just under $1 million in depreciated value of our rural fire crews buildings and vehicles, Mr King said although the new legislation is not yet drawn up, from July 1 next year the new merged organisation will be requiring use of any rural fire crew equipment his council has.

District councillor Keith Fenemore said if the fire service continued to ask the council to donate the assets, it should "dig its toes in". "If we do that, where do we stand? This is a valuable part of our district."

Mr King said the commission recognises it will take a year to work out and more time to find the true value of rural fire service assets. "Obviously the new merged fire service will have very large expenses in branding, uniforms and ancillary gear which won't leave a lot for training, etc."

New firefighting service:

* The new organisation will be a merger of the 52 rural fire authorities, the National Rural Fire Authority and the New Zealand Fire Service (which are both part of the New Zealand Fire Service Commission).