Fire and Emergency New Zealand has welcomed a diverse group of 22 new firefighters at a graduation ceremony at the National Training Centre in Rotorua on Thursday.
The latest intake featured five women and people from a variety of cultural backgrounds, including Māori, Filipino and Pacific, said Fire and Emergency chief executive Rhys Jones.
"Everyone is welcome at Fire and Emergency, and we're encouraged to see that message is beginning to be heard by the public. This group of graduates is one of the most diverse we've seen, and bodes well for the future.
"Our firefighters need to reflect and relate to the communities we serve, to enable us to better reach into communities and build effective relationships to reduce risk."
The recruits passed a 12-week course which combined theory with practical knowledge, as well as team-building and physically challenging tasks. The 22 new firefighters were chosen from more than 500 applicants.
Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin attended the ceremony and congratulated the recruits on their achievement.
"Firefighters hold a treasured, valued and trusted role in New Zealand communities, and I'd like to congratulate all of the graduates on earning the right to call themselves a firefighter."
Among the new recruits is Gaston Zubiri, who moved to New Zealand from the Philippines in 2015. His journey to become a firefighter began when a fire alarm went off at an Auckland hotel he was working at as a window and door installer.
Zubiri said he was excited to see Fire and Emergency arrive on the scene and asked one of the firefighters what it took to be a firefighter.
"He said Auckland was hiring - so I went to the website and sent my application in. It feels like a big honour to be one of the 22 and get to the training centre. Everyone here comes from all walks of life."
Zubiri was told his ability to speak Filipino would be greatly appreciated in Auckland, where there was a growing population from the Philippines.
New recruit Marianna Hodges credits her brother, who is a firefighter, with influencing her decision to apply. She was also inspired by two women firefighters in her waka ama elite paddlers team, who represent New Zealand.
"I've wanted to join since my early 20s. Now I've done it, I wish I'd joined earlier.
"Women bring a unique perspective and can make a strong contribution to Fire and Emergency."
Jones said attracting and welcoming diversity was important to Fire and Emergency.
"New recruits form the basis of a sustainable, healthy, vibrant and forward-looking organisation.
"Having a wide range of people, from all walks of life is crucial to ensuring our firefighters can do what they do best - keeping people safe," he said.
"Fire and Emergency is not only about firefighting, we are building an organisation with a positive workplace culture, that reflects the needs of the broader work we do as first responders to emergencies and our risk reduction work in communities."
• The National Training Centre (NTC) in Rotorua trains 96 recruits a year, across four courses.
• 24 positions are available on each 12-week course.
• Of the latest 22 graduates, 14 are NZ European, four are Māori, one is from the Philippines and two are Pasifika.
• New recruits are assigned to one of 66 career fire stations around New Zealand.
• Applications will open for the next recruitment round on February 4 and close March 4, 2019.
• The NTC also trains 256 volunteer recruits and delivers in-service courses to firefighters.
• In the 2017/18 financial year, about 22,000 people attended training courses run by Fire and Emergency New Zealand.