Martinborough's fire brigade is at the forefront of embracing diversity - successfully recruiting five new women to their ranks and bringing the gender ratio to near equality.

Senior firefighter Dean Di Bona called for Martinborough women to join the brigade at the start of this year amid a nationwide problem in recruiting new volunteers.

Six months later, after an intense recruitment process, he is "really thrilled" to confirm that five Martinborough women will join the ranks, bringing the number of women firefighters in the South Wairarapa town to eight.

"On a personal level I'm really thrilled that so many people have taken up the challenge," he said.


"What that shows us is that we're able to fill the gaps by actually looking in places we didn't expect and hopefully this then will become the norm. I'm really stoked by it all."

Mr Di Bona said the concept of actively recruiting women firefighters, through a Wairarapa Times-Age story earlier this year, was "incredibly well-received" by the community.

"The comment that came to us was that they had never really thought of it as something they could do," he said.

"It's great just to see these women all come on board but it's also great to see the diverse backgrounds they have.

"We have one that just does odd jobs around town and so this is perfect for her, another one that owns a motel here in town with her husband, one that's an artist, one that does administration for a real estate company, and one works for the local laundry."

Sarah Hullah, Zoe Sinclair, Sandra Schmid and Melinda Coleman. Photo / Elizabeth Goodall
Sarah Hullah, Zoe Sinclair, Sandra Schmid and Melinda Coleman. Photo / Elizabeth Goodall

Mr Di Bona said that for one of the new recruits, it was the second time she had stepped up to the challenge for her community.

"One of them joined another brigade a while back. She was there six months and she told me she was the only female and was treated so poorly that her job was just to clean the toilet.

"I'm just gobsmacked by that, and yet with the Martinborough brigade, she talks about the positive nature she's been received with here."

The new recruits will undergo six months' training at Martinborough before being sent to the national training centre in Rotorua to complete their firefighting qualifications.

"The community is very excited about it, it's just a win-win for absolutely everybody and it makes our job of recruiting easier in years to come.

"Now we don't just go tapping on the shoulders of male tradespeople, we can now look across to the whole community.

"I absolutely encourage anyone who is keen to volunteer for their communities to stand up and do it. The hardest thing about being a firefighter, and I've said this to all of my recruits, is walking through the door.

"Everything else can be taught and is encouraged, but you have to take that step and walk through the door. If you do, you will be very welcome."