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Key appointments made for new Fire & Emergency organisation


5 May 2017

Key appointments made for new Fire and Emergency New Zealand organisation

Appointments have been made to three leadership positions at Fire and Emergency New Zealand, the new organisation that brings together the country’s urban and rural firefighters on 1 July 2017 into one service.

The Chair of the New Zealand Fire Service Commission Board Paul Swain says the Board is delighted to appoint Rhys Jones as Chief Executive of Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Paul McGill as the National Commander of Urban Fire and Emergency operations and Kevin O’Connor as the National Manager of Rural Fire and Emergency operations.

“Rhys Jones, as a former Chief of the Defence Force, led a large, complex organisation through a period of change. He is an experienced leader with a deep understanding of both career and volunteer forces, and brings a services background to the job. His experience, skills and character make him an ideal appointment.”

“Paul McGill is an experienced firefighter, officer and leader with 37 years’ service in the New Zealand Fire Service - 15 of those on the frontline before he moved into several senior roles. He is currently Chief Executive and National Commander of the New Zealand Fire Service.

“Kevin O’Connor is currently National Rural Fire Officer leading the National Rural Fire Authority (NRFA). He has had a long involvement in rural fire throughout his career in the Department of Conservation and the NRFA since 2014.”

Mr Swain says all three appointments are of the highest calibre.

“These appointments, in addition to the skills of other members of the senior leadership team, mean we have a great mix of leadership, management and operational experience to take us through the formation and integration of Fire and Emergency New Zealand.”

“We are on track to bring together 40 rural and urban fire organisations on 1 July to create a world-leading, integrated, well co-ordinated and funded fire and emergency service in New Zealand.”

“Our firefighters do a great job every day around the country but that job is changing all the time. They now spend a lot more time responding to motor vehicle crashes, medical emergencies, hazardous material spillages, storms, floods, earthquakes and a wide range of rescue situations.

“We are updating the way our fire and emergency services are organised and funded, backed by new legislation, which was passed by Parliament yesterday, to keep pace with what the community expects and needs from us.

“To ensure there is no disruption to our day-to-day operations, there will be no change to how our fire brigades and rural fire forces operate on day one. We will operate rural and urban structures side by side for the first couple of years,” Mr Swain says.

“While the amalgamation of urban and rural fire services will occur on 1 July, there is a lot more work to do over the next three years to fully integrate our operations by 2020.

“As Chief Executive, Rhys will lead this integration work, while Paul, as National Commander Urban, and Kevin, as National Manager Rural, will have operational responsibility for Fire and Emergency New Zealand so that fire trucks continue to roll out the door in response to calls for help.”

Mr Jones has been appointed for a three-year term which recognises that the integration phase is expected to take that period of time. Mr McGill and Mr O’Connor have been appointed for two-year terms because operational integration is expected to be completed in two years.

All three will take up their new roles on 1 July 2017. In the interim, Mr McGill will continue as New Zealand Fire Service Chief Executive and National Commander, and Mr O’Connor will continue as National Rural Fire Officer.

“I want to thank all our senior leaders and our people around the country for their ongoing commitment to a successful transition to Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

“The Board looks forward to working with Rhys and his team during this exciting time,” says Mr Swain.


Rhys Jones

Lieutenant General (Retired) Rhys Jones served in the Army for 35 years, retiring in 2014 having held command at all senior levels, culminating as the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF). Between 2007 and 2009 he was the Commander of the Headquarters Joint Forces, where he directed military operations in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands as well as joint training and humanitarian operations in the Pacific. During his tenure as the CDF the Defence Force responded to the Christchurch earthquake, the largest civil assistance operation ever conducted by the New Zealand Defence Force.

On retiring from the military Rhys Jones was the Executive Director of the National Military Heritage Charitable Trust, responsible for coordinating the building of Sir Peter Jackson’s Great War Exhibition. From 2015 to early 2016 he was a member of the Flag Consideration Panel for the Flag Change Referendum and simultaneously served on the French-New Zealand team assisting the creation of the French Memorial at Pukeahu Memorial Park. Currently, as well as serving as a Trustee on the National Military Heritage Charitable Trust, Rhys also is a consulting partner with Tregaskis Brown, focusing on strategic planning, governance and program management. He is the Chairman of the Wahine 2018 Charitable Trust and a panel member of the Strategic Risk and Resilience Panel which offers advice to senior government officials on the big risk issues facing the country.

Rhys was awarded the Military order of Saint George by the King of Tonga in 2011, the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2014 and the Commander of the Legion of Honour by the French Government in 2017.

Paul McGill

Paul McGill is an experienced firefighter, officer and leader with 37 years’ service in the New Zealand Fire Service. He is currently Chief Executive and National Commander of the New Zealand Fire Service, appointed for a four-month term in March this year.

Paul joined the NZFS in Auckland as a recruit in 1980 and served 15-years there as a frontline operational firefighter and officer, two of these years as a fulltime training instructor.

He was promoted to his first senior officer role in 1995 as Otago Assistant Area Manager based in Dunedin and in 1997 was appointed Fire Region Manager/Commander for the Auckland Fire Region, a position he held for eight years.

In 2005 he moved to the NZFS National Headquarters in Wellington to take up the national Director of Operations and Training role and was appointed Deputy National Commander in 2012.

As Deputy National Commander he was a member of the NZFS Strategic Leadership Team and responsible for:

• Leading the Operational Leadership Team including the five Fire Region Managers, National Operations Manager and National Risk Reduction Manager.

• National risk reduction programmes, including fire engineering.

• National operational policy, procedures, standards and advice.

• Management of national fleet, property and equipment.

Paul's qualifications include:

• MA in Management (Coventry University)

• Member of City and Guilds of London Institute, for Fire Service Management.

• Fellow (FIFireE) of the Institution of Fire Engineers.

• Graduate of the Brigade Command Course at the Fire Service College in the UK.

Kevin O’Connor

Kevin started work with the NZ Fire Service in September 2014, as the National Rural Fire Officer leading the National Rural Fire Authority (NRFA). In his time in this role, and in addition to his NRFA leadership, he has been involved with both the fire services review and the Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) transition work.

Kevin started his career as a New Zealand Forest Service Ranger Trainee and then attended Lincoln University, studying Parks and Recreation. Kevin then worked as a ranger with the Forest Service in a variety of locations, before joining the Department of Conservation (DOC) when it was created in 1987.

His first role in DOC was as a District Conservator based in Taupo and he then went on to work in various operational and technical leadership roles at a number of locations. This included 6 years as DOC¡¯s Southland Conservator, followed by 7 years as a Deputy Director General (DDG) based in Wellington, leading the Science and Technical Group. Subsequently he took on the role of DDG Conservation Services in 2012, involving oversight and responsibility for DOC¡¯s operational work.

Kevin is an experienced senior leader at both the New Zealand Fire Service DOC, with considerable operational and change management expertise.

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