27 May 2015

Call for submissions on Fire Service changes

4:50 pm on 27 May 2015

The Government is calling for public submissions on proposals to change the country's fire services, with one suggestion being to establish a single national service.

Fire service Wellington.

Fire service Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said there were three possible options for change but he would not say which he preferred at this stage.

The options included enhancing the current system; modifying it to establish new rural fire authorities; and setting up a single organisation responsible for both rural and urban services.

Mr Dunne said much had changed since the fire service was set up to put out building and house fires.

"Actually the bulk of what the fire service does is not in that camp. It's extricating people from vehicles after road accidents. It's urban search and rescue. It's other forms of fire that weren't the case previously and strictly speaking the mandate is very vague, if not non-existent, for all of those things."

Mr Dunne said one of the aims was to give volunteer firefighters more support.

Meanwhile, the Insurance Council criticised the Government for not considering funding the fire service out of general taxation.

United Future Leader, Peter Dunne.

United Future Leader, Peter Dunne. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

But Mr Dunne made no apologies for sticking with a levy on insurance.

"The fact is that the Government has said it thinks that the basis of fire funding through the levy arrangement should continue. It's not prepared to look at simply funding the Fire Services out of general taxation. The cost would be prohibitive."

Submissions on the discussion document close on 10 July.