28 May 2015

Single fire service possible, Dunne says

10:04 am on 28 May 2015

Integrating the country's fire services into a single national service is a real possibility, Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne says.

The Government is looking to overhaul the services and has asked the public for their views in response to a 2012 review that called for reform.

United Future Leader, Peter Dunne.

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

The review cited a lack of support for rural firefighters and a lack of clear responsibility.

Mr Dunne said a single service was the ultimate option.

"We have a fire service at the moment which is about 84 percent volunteer, that's both in urban and rural fire districts.

"We want to encourage those volunteers, give them more support, more training and better equipment to work alongside the paid force."

There are three possible options for change and Mr Dunne would not say which he preferred.

The options are 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 the country's fire services had not fundamentally changed since the Ballantyne's fire of 1947.

The Insurance Council, meanwhile, said the Government had shut down free and frank discussion about how to fund the Fire Service.

The service is mainly funded through an insurance-based fire levy, with some contribution from the Government.

The Insurance Council said the discussion document only offered narrow alternative funding options, and taxation was the fairest way.

Mr Dunne said that was a predictable response from the council and the cost to the taxpayer would be substantial if it happened.