Rural fire services set to merge

By Lin Ferguson

A merger between the three Taranaki rural fire districts to form a single Taranaki Rural Fire District under one management structure, has been approved by the three district councils and the Department of Conservation.

The South Taranaki District Council, Stratford District Council, New Plymouth District Council and DoC's Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki Conservancy agreed last month to combine existing rural fire districts and form a single Taranaki Rural Fire District, starting July 1 2013.

Public submissions on the merger will close on Thursday January 31 at 4pm.

Transition project manager Des Beaven said the main reason for the merger was because many of the small rural services had been unable to meet management requirements.

No jobs or positions in South Taranaki will be lost.

"And there has been a huge amount of duplication throughout New Zealand in the smaller rural fire districts," he said.

"A certain amount of gear including fire trucks, hoses and fire fighting equipment have all been duplicated. Many of the smaller services have struggled to meet management requirements. A better efficiency and focus is really needed in the service."

The merged service would be governed by a board of seven directors and managed by a full- time principal rural fire officer.

"It will undertake all rural fire functions previously carried out by the councils and DoC. So at an operational level there will be little change except that training and support for rural fire volunteers will be greatly enhanced," Mr Beaven said.

Submissions would go to the National Rural Fire Authority in Wellington and the Fire Service Commission.

A decision from the submissions would made very quickly "by the end of February, beginning of March".

"The merger is all about management and governance. Nothing changes in the way fires are fought so people have absolutely nothing to fear. The services on the ground will not be affected at all."

Mr Beaven said the improvement in rural fire service management would mean tighter operations all round.

Details of the Proposal to Establish an Enlarged Rural Fire District in Taranaki are available from any of the council service centres, the STDC LibraryPlus facilities and the DoC office in New Plymouth.

Submissions should be sent to the National Rural Fire Authority, PO Box 2133, Wellington before 4pm on Thursday January 31.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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