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Burton: Opening of Fire Authorities Conference

Opening of Australasian Fire Authorities Council Conference

Opening of Australasian Fire Authorities Council Conference

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Dame Margaret Bazley, Peter Akers, Ian MacDougall, Ben Eazzetta, and all the delegates from Australia and other countries of our region, welcome to New Zealand.

Regional gatherings such as this illustrate well that not withstanding the good-natured sporting rivalry we share, we really do have a lot in common.

Wearing one of my other hats as Minister of Defence I can attest to our good working relationship with the defence forces from Australia and our friends across the region covered by AFAC.

And across a wide variety of government activities there is a great deal of practical co-operation.

The New Zealand-Australia relationship is a uniquely close one, underpinned by geography, and shared history, values, and institutions.

Migration, trade, and other people-to-people linkages have helped shape a strong trans-Tasman sense of family.

At a political level, the relationship that New Zealand has with Australia (and vice versa) is better developed and more extensive than with any other country. The Prime Ministers hold formal talks annually; Foreign Ministers meet twice yearly; and the Finance, Trade and Defence Ministers meet annually. Across a range of portfolios, New Zealand Ministers (and their senior officials) frequently participate in Australian Federal/State Ministerial Council meetings.

Australia and New Zealand work closely on a wide range of foreign policy and trade issues. This is particularly so in the South Pacific, East Asia and in multilateral organisations, such as the WTO. There is ongoing consultation and coordination both between capitals and diplomatic posts overseas.

And across the wider Pacific region we place great value on our relationship with our neighbours.

New Zealand is a Pacific nation. We have growing inter-dependence with the region through significant trade and people-to-people links, and the growing part that Pacific Islands play in New Zealand's national identity.

Later this month New Zealand, along with other Pacific nations, will be participating in the 36th Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

So this conference is just another example of how much we share and work together in our region.

I note that AFAC's aims to provide a regional focus for the industry, the co-ordination of activities and resources, policy formulation and information sharing, will help raise standards across the region.

I am also pleased to note that AFAC provides a unified Australasian voice in the international arena on issues such as standards.

On a practical level this collaborative approach has great spin offs. For example when our firefighting personnel travelled to Australia to help fight the bush fires in Victoria they slotted in very quickly to that State's incident management system because both countries use the ICS system. And our personnel gained a great deal from working alongside their Australian colleagues.

There is also much to be gained from the collaboration provided by AFAC in the area of leadership training and research. I understand that members of AFAC are able to send personnel to development courses that include a volunteers officers' course and a tertiary development programme for future leaders at the Australian Institute of Police Management at Manly.

In terms of research, I am told that AFAC has a series of sub-committees that cooperate on projects in areas as varied as human resources, fire safety education and training.

And of course, it also has a relationship with the Bushfire CRC, which is co-hosting this conference. This all adds up to promoting a strong co-ordinated regional focus.

Finally, wearing another of my hats, Minister of Tourism, I hope that all our overseas visitors to this conference take the opportunity to experience some of the immense variety of environments and experiences this country has to offer, whether it's taking in the sights of Auckland or travelling further afield, there is lots to do and see.

Enjoy this conference and enjoy your time as our guests in New Zealand, and when you get home tell all your friends and families what a wonderful country this is to visit!

It now gives me great pleasure to declare this AFAC and Bushfire CRC Conference 2005 officially open.

ENDS

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