Bay of Plenty's three busiest fire stations attended more non-fire related calls than actual fires last year.

The figures obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times reveal the true nature of officers' work as the service is overhauled for the first time in 40 years to reflect the "dramatically" different service it provides.

The New Zealand Fire Service, National Rural Fire Authority, and more than 40 Rural Fire Authorities are merging in a $300 million transition to form a unified organisation - Fire and Emergency New Zealand - from July 1, 2017.

This included all of the Bay's fire stations and was an attempt to bring the service into the 21st century, said Fire Service chief executive and national commander Paul Baxter.


The Fire Service's current legislation dated back to 1975 - much of which was carried over from the 1940s - and did not reflect the modern challenges it faced, Mr Baxter said.

"It's well past its use-by date. The firefighter's role has changed dramatically from 40 years ago, from predominantly just fighting fires to doing all of the other emergencies and [activities] that are required."

The Western Bay's three busiest stations - Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Greerton - attended 1356 real incidents in the 2016 financial year. Only 533 of these were for fires - 39.3 per cent - while 607 - 44.8 per cent - were for rescue, emergency, medical or hazardous emergencies.

There were also 1143 false alarms, which was almost half of all incidents attended.

Tauranga station attended the most incidents - 198 fires, 182 rescue, emergency or medical events, 74 hazardous emergencies, 70 special service calls and nine natural disasters. It also attended 498 false calls.

Mr Baxter said the act would give the new organisation the funding and legal authorisation to do what the Fire Service had been tasked with previously.

"In a lot of respects, the changes to the legislation are catching up with the demands and needs of the community by providing an updated mandate."

Mr Baxter said the transition, which was progressing through Parliament, had been hailed by the majority of those in the affected organisations, but had a few kinks to be ironed out.

The transition was a big task, especially with the usual day-to-day incidents still to attend.

"It's a very important aspect of our organisation to make sure our 'business as usual' emergency responses continue uninterrupted. The truck keeps going down the road while we're trying to change the tyre basically."

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said the funding for the transition and the organisation's new responsibilities would come from an increase to the fire levy, which was paid on insurance for contents, property and motor vehicles.

The levy would be extended to also include third-party motor vehicle insurance.