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Speech To The Forest And Rural Fire Association


Speech To The Forest And Rural Fire Association Of New Zealand Conference (Auckland August 2002)


Acknowledgements

· Don Geddes Chairman of FRFANZ
· David Hay, Deputy Mayor of Auckland
· Piers Reid, Member of the Fire Service Commission
· Murray Dudfield, National Rural Fire Officer
· Rick McRae, Richard Alder, Kelvin Wise and Russell Rees. Guest Australian speakers
· Conference Delegates


· It is a pleasure to be here today to open this conference of the Forest and Rural Fire Association of New Zealand.

· It's great to have some of the Australian contingent "crossing the ditch" again. I greatly enjoyed opening last year's Conference in Christchurch held jointly with the Australian Bushfire Association.

Introductions

· Rural Fire Management is important. Let's not forget that Fire Authorities in New Zealand are responsible for the management of fire over 98 percent of the country.

· While we may not have fires on the scale of those in Australia or America we do have some 4,000 to 5,000 rural fires annually.

· We need to have the equipment and skills to manage those fires, and to prevent others from occurring. We also need to stay up to date and embrace technological changes in fire management and prevention.

· I know all of us here are committed to these ends.

· This year I've spent time visiting rural communities.

· I've been impressed by the commitment to fire control I've seen. While the theme of this conference is the practical application of technological advances in rural fire prevention and suppression, its clear to me that commitment places a major role in keeping rural areas safe from fire.

· The existence of the Forest and Rural Fire Association shows me that there is a very strong national commitment to that end.

SupportOverseas

· The legacy of the September 11 attacks in the fire fighting area was international recognition and focus on the important role of fire fighters.

· There was an enormous outpouring of support for those fire fighters involved.

· That experience has provided a focus for how overseas agencies can provide help to each other at the time of a major fire event.

· New Zealand fire experience and practical help has been provided to other countries in the area of wildfires.

· Our ten rural fire managers who travelled to Australia provided a valuable contribution to the management of the bushfires in New South Wales at Christmas time. You will hear more about their role later in the conference.

· As many of you will know, an agreement was signed in 2001 between USA and New Zealand that allows forest and rural fire fighters to assist each other when resources are stretched.

· In 2000 you will remember that 96 experts from Australia and New Zealand went to help with the wildfires of that year. This contribution was well recognised by the US

· The President has just signed legislation that provides legal protection for Kiwi fire fighters in the US, on the same footing as US fire fighters. I'm glad this law change has been managed in time to provide help for the current wildfires in the US.

· The National Rural Fire Authority has been doing a great job arranging for fire fighters and managers to go from here to join the Australian contingent.

Technological Advances

· The deployment of our people overseas is not just a chance to help those countries. It also strengthens our international working relationships, and provides valuable training and knowledge for use back home.

· While we may not have the scale of fires raging in the US we do need to have personnel able to manage and fight large wildfires when they occur.

· Firefighting skills and knowledge are not the only things shared internationally. Over the past thirty years, overseas technology, systems and equipment developments have been incorporated into our arsenal of fire fighting measures. For instance:

· the Wajax pump, hydro blender, and Fire Weather Index system from Canada.
· the Incident Command Systems, wildfire protective clothing, and Class A foam, all from the USA, and;
· the fire behaviour fuel models from Canada and Australia;

· All these advances have made a great difference to our ability to prevent and fight wildfires.

Grants Assistance Scheme

· From my trips around the country looking at brigades and rural fire forces I have been able to gain an overview of rural fire operations.

· There was obvious commitment from the fire forces, but some of the equipment I saw was not up to an expected standard.

· As a result I have approved the allocation of an additional $500,000 for the National Rural Fire Authority grants assistance scheme.

· I understand that this money is likely to be used in the upgrading of small, first- response rural fire appliances.

In conclusion:

· Thank you for the invitation to speak here today.

· It gives me much pleasure to declare the conference officially open.

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