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Makarora's New Fire Station Open

The doors are officially open at Makarora’s new fire station.

A brief sunshower sprinkled a blessing on the Volunteer Fire Brigade and supporters yesterday afternoon as Fire and Emergency celebrated completion of the $2.2 million facility that will also be a hub for the community.

Makarora is one of Otago’s most remote Volunteer Fire Brigades and responds to vehicle crashes and medical calls as well as fires. Speakers at yesterday’s opening reminisced about how the brigade had evolved from a Forest Service and DOC rural firefighting unit through the 1970s and 80s. A house fire in 1989 prompted the formal establishment of the Makarora Rural Fire Force, while a fatal accident in 1998 had highlighted the need for better equipment and training.

The new station is the first official home for the Makarora Brigade, which used to house its fire truck in an open aircraft hanger. A garage with an office and first aid room comprised the only facilities for the brigade when the weather was too bad to be outside, the firefighters used to train at the local school.

Now the brigade has a fully equipped station with room for its fire truck, support vehicle and trailer, as well as a training room, office, gear room, toilets and shower, and a kitchen.

Fire and Emergency’s Deputy Chief Executive (Service Delivery Design) Steph Rotarangi said that the fire station was "more than a building". It will also be a community hub used by Police, LandSAR (Land Search and Rescue) and St John, and those partnerships all strengthened the community’s resilience.

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Region Manager Mike Grant noted the strong community support for the Makarora brigade and the legacy of strong local leadership. "As an organisation, we provide the tools for our volunteer brigades - we call it ‘the three Ts,’ which stands for Trucks, Trousers and Training - but it’s the community that puts up the people."

Most of the $2.2 million for the build came from the Government’s COVID Recovery Fund, with a $100,000 contribution from the Queenstown Lakes District Council, via the former Otago Rural Fire Authority, which was amalgamated into the newly created Fire and Emergency NZ in 2017. The land has been leased from local benefactor Rhondda Osmers at a peppercorn rental.

The station has been constructed to IL4 standard, which is the highest level of seismic strength for public buildings that must be able to operate immediately after an earthquake. The plans took into account not just the seismic risk at Makarora but the frequency of heavy snow and gales.

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