Press Release – Porirua City Council
A chopper, monsoon bucket and four fire trucks will converge on the site of one of Wellington’s most spectacular rural fires tomorrow to launch the region’s new merged rural fire service.
In February 2010, the night sky in Porirua glowed bright orange as a blaze on Whitireia Park threatened homes in Titahi Bay. Many motorists stopped on State Highway 1 to watch the dramatic scene and its reflection across the waters of Porirua Harbour.
Thirty-nine fire trucks, four helicopters with monsoon buckets and over 150 firefighters and officials worked for days to douse the fire.
“That fire brought together rural fire forces from Wellington, Upper Hutt, Wainuiomata and Te Horo with support from Porirua, DOC and the fire service,” says Porirua City Council Chief Executive Gary Simpson who is Chair of the Rural Fire Transition Committee.
“However, as from tomorrow the Wellington Rural Fire Authority which take over all rural fire responsibilities from Upper Hutt, Hutt, Wellington, Porirua, and Kapiti Coast, including private forests and Greater Wellington Regional Council and Department of Conservation lands in these areas.”
Rachael Thorp who was recently appointed Principal Rural Fire Officer for the new rural fire authority says moving from the present structure, where each Council in the Wellington region is a rural fire authority in its own right, will offer many benefits.
“The new structure will improve the capability and capacity of the rural fire authorities by pooling and sharing resources and expertise. It will also increase the safety of rural communities by providing better leadership and advice to land owners and the public by creating greater awareness of fire threats and risks to the region.”
Rachael says other benefits of the Wellington Rural Fire Authority include clarifying accountabilities and responsibilities and reducing duplication.
“The authority will be able to improve the use of existing resource and the ability of the fire authorities to comply with statutory obligations. Enhancing the integration of fire management principles, policies, plans and practices across different land uses will also improve.”
Overseeing the management of the new service will be a Board made up of six members representing the organisations involved and an independent member and Chair of the board.
Dr Nicki Crauford was appointed to this role last month.
“The new authority provides a great opportunity to eliminate the current duplication of effort and time administratively with six organisations and to eliminate inconsistencies of approach which leads to confusion for the public and fire personnel,” Dr Crauford says. “Initially we will consolidate operating models, and then the objective is to evaluate operational structures and related assets/equipment needed to optimise effectiveness as a single unit.”
The launch is being held at 2.30pm on Tuesday at the Titahi Bay Golf Club, which was used as an operations and welfare centre during the 2010 fire.