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Fire and Emergency Chief Executive Offers Condolences, Calls for Modernisation

Thursday 18 May 2023, 12:06PM

By Fire and Emergency New Zealand

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WELLINGTON CITY

Fire and Emergency Chief Executive Kerry Gregory says the multiple fatality fire at Loafers Lodge in Newtown, Wellington is an enormous tragedy and offers his sincere condolences to the whānau of those who have lost loved ones. His thoughts are with all those who have been impacted.

"Our people did an absolutely phenomenal job of evacuating people out of the burning building, rescuing people from the roof, extinguishing the fire in extremely dangerous circumstances, and talking to trapped residents who had dialled 111," he says.

"I thank them all for their courageous mahi. Our firefighters, executive officers, and 111 call takers and dispatchers who were involved in this incident are hurting. They all did their utmost to save as many lives as they could. I am incredibly proud of our people and the decisions that they made on the night. We will be doing everything we can to support them through this time."

In response to the Loafers Lodge fire, Fire and Emergency New Zealand has been asked if we have the tools we need to respond to these sorts of major events.

"I want to reassure people we had the people and the specialist equipment required for the Loafers Lodge fire."

Kerry Gregory says while Fire and Emergency has invested considerably in rebuilding and refurbishing fire stations and purchasing new trucks and specialist equipment since it was established in 2017, we do have challenges with ageing fleet and stations that are not fit-for-purpose - 27% of our appliances are beyond their target asset life of 20 to 25 years.

The establishment of Fire and Emergency New Zealand brought together more than 40 separate fire services from around the country.

The legacy condition of many of our inherited stations and appliances varied significantly from fit-for-purpose vehicles to those that were barely safe for use, he says.

While there have been improvements in the stations and appliances since then, significant effort, time and investment is still required to modernise our out-of-date fleet and neglected property.

Fire and Emergency has a 20-year capital budget forecast of more than $2.9 billon to improve and replenish main assets. Based on our current forecast income, we can only afford $2 billion. The Board of Fire and Emergency New Zealand is looking at options and mechanisms for funding this $900 million shortfall, this remains a work in progress.

We are also committed to increasing career firefighter numbers to reduce the reliance on overtime and to maintain staffing levels for response. We are working closely with the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union on this matter.

We are working with unions and associations and our people on the ground to ensure we develop a modern emergency response organisation which has up to date, fit-for-purpose tools.

"I want to reassure the public, as we saw on Monday night, and through the flooding earlier this year from the Far North right through to Tairāwhiti and the Hawke’s Bay, Fire and Emergency is available and capable of responding to incidents to keep New Zealand communities safe. Please call 111 if you have an emergency. We will respond and continue to be there when you need us."