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Deliberate Campaign to Denigrate Professional Fire

6 OCTOBER 1999

Deliberate Campaign to Denigrate Professional Firefighters

On Eve of Court of Appeal Hearing

Professional Firefighters are seriously concerned about a campaign by some in the management of the New Zealand Fire Service to denigrate them in the public mind on the eve of the Court of Appeal hearing.

The Union has asked its lawyers to raise the matter directly with the Chief Executive of the Fire Service as an issue of contempt of Court.

Derek Best, Secretary of the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union, says that public denigration of professional firefighters has intensified as the Court of Appeal hearing approaches.

"Only 8 days before the hearing, a Sunday newspaper reported that an unnamed Fire Service spokeswoman had released letters to the media said to have been received by Margaret Bazley, the Chairperson of the Commission".

The newspaper article reported that the spokeswoman for the Fire Service said that the purpose in releasing the letters was to "prove" that professional firefighters intimidate volunteers.

"The Union had no knowledge of the letters or their content until it read of them in the newspaper", Mr. Best said.

Mr. Best said that the release of the letters was of serious concern to the firefighters when the matter had not been referred to the Union and the allegations had not been investigated.

"In any event the allegations have no substance, many are simply rehashed allegations that are years old and most are extraordinarily trivial for example turning off volunteers beer fridge".

"The timed release of such material can only bring all paid firefighters into disrepute. I have serious questions about the motives of those involved in releasing the letters just a few days before the Court of Appeal hearing", said Mr. Best.

The Union has requested the Chief Executive, Alison Timms, to take immediate steps to ensure this campaign ceases.

It has also asked her to provide information about the timing of and the purpose for the publicity.

"Our lawyers have raised the matter directly and formally with her and we are awaiting her urgent response", concluded Derek Best.


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