A Wanganui fireman is now heading the country's firefighters union and says he wants to develop much closer and clearer relationships with the Fire Service on his watch.

Last August Peter Nicolle was elected national president of the NZ Professional Firefighters Union and its a position he will hold for three years.

Mr Nicolle has been a firefighter for 33 years and has been involved at a union level from the time he arrived in Wanganui in 1980.

He said the initial period of his term was focusing on building relationships between the union and the Fire Service and in his view industrial disruption was well off the agenda.


He said he knew that the idea of taking industrial action did not sit comfortably with any of them.

"People are never going to walk out the doors like we did in the 90s and I don't think there's anything serious enough to make them want to do that. I certainly know a lot of guys struggled morally at the time taking the action anyway,"he said.

Mr Nicolle said he was usually at a union executive meeting in Wellington at least once a week, juggling that around shift work back at Wanganui.

"We're unique as a union because all of the executive are serving firefighters. We have only one full-time paid officer," he said.

The union's main focus remained on health and safety "which in our job comes as no surprise".

"They've just done a review on funding and functions of the fire service and that includes increasing our role in major events but obviously you've got to balance the resources.

"New Zealand's never going to have more firefighters than what it has got now because the country can't afford it. But by the same token we do see the need to get ourselves involved a lot more because we are a 'lead' organisation. We're fully trained, we're available 24/7 so why shouldn't we be used?"

Mr Nicolle said he believed firefighters generally were happy with their job and to do the work.

"If you talk about pay then we're probably like the average Kiwi claiming everyone gets a pay rise but us. But then you look at the number of guys still on the job after about 30 years and what holds them there. It's their interest in the job."

He said he had witnessed massive changes in how firefighters operated during his time in the service.

"There's still the same emphasis on training but there's a lot more emphasis on interaction with the public, things such as education,"

He said the service now worked in very closely with St John ambulance services and there were some locations around the country where the paramedics were on station.

As to public perception of the firefighters, Mr Nicolle refers to the regular Readers Digest polls about the level of trust people had for various professions.

"We've come out tops in that for years and I think that's because the public know that we're going to turn up when we say we are."