At least six firefighters are needed to ensure the Matatā Volunteer Fire Brigade can continue to serve the community.

The brigade is now severely understaffed and on occasion has found it hard to muster enough firefighters to attend emergencies.

Two weeks ago, the brigade received a medical call-out to a person suffering breathing difficulty in a rural area.

However, only one member was available in Matatā and the brigade was unable to attend.


"We are short on numbers, so instead of this person receiving first aid within 10 minutes, they had to wait over half an hour for an ambulance to arrive from Whakatāne and provide medical assistance," said Matatā chief fire officer Gavin Dennis.

The brigade is entitled to 20 members but is currently down to 14, meaning they are six short.

Compounding the problem, many members are shift workers or work out of town so are not always available to attend.

Dennis said many of the young people the brigade recruited were also sought after by employers and the brigade would often lose them to positions with the police or to further study.

The brigade is looking for recruits in their 30s or 40s who own their own homes in Matatā or who are long-term renters for the long-term sustainability of the brigade.

"We are also interested in younger ones who can join as cadets at age 15 or 16 upwards into their 20s," he said.

"It looks really good on a CV to say you are a volunteer at your local brigade and all the skills and team working skills that go along with it. I have never seen one of our young ones turned down for a job as a result."

A role with the brigade not only looks great on a CV, but is a lot of fun with a team that becomes like family.


"You really become part of a family and there is a lot of camaraderie," Dennis said.

"There is a lot of joking and laughter and of course a huge adrenaline rush every time the siren goes and all the excitement that goes with that."

Those who join will do some training with the brigade but will also need to attend eight-days of training with Fire and Emergency New Zealand in Rotorua.

After training, recruits will spend some time doing duties such as traffic control and will not be sent onto the front line until they are more experienced.

If something terrible were to happen, there is peer support available within the brigade and Fire and Emergency provides psychological support.

Dennis said anyone interested is welcome to come down to the Matatā Fire Station on Heale St at 7pm any Wednesday night.

- Whakatāne Beacon