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Fearless Fire-Fighter Should be Honoured

Fearless Fire-Fighter Should be Honoured says Hone Harawira

Friday 24 November 2006

Hone Harawira, MP for Te Tai Tokerau, today spoke out about the heroic bravery and stoic determination of Te Rawhiti woman, Bella Heta (of Ngati Haua).

“Bella is an amazing woman - she started out as a fire fighter in the Pureora Forest because all the local men were at work and she and five other women were the only ones left at home who could brave the flames.”

“It’s an incredible achievement that she’s been fighting fires for 25 years and I was a bit blown away to hear that due to the bureaucracy gone mad, she’s been deprived of the Gold Star Award that should be rightfully hers”.

Earlier this week the United Fire Brigades' Association executive said 61-year-old Bella Heta could not be given the Gold Star – an award presented to those who have served as fire fighting workers for 25 or 50 years.

“The criteria for the Gold Star is that candidates need to have carried out their 25 or 50 years of service consecutively at one fire service organisation.”

“Rules are rules I guess, but I reckon the main thing is that Bella has put in that Gold Star effort, with or without the badge, for quarter of a century, and her community are right behind her” said Mr Harawira.

“Besides it would be almost impossible for most women to give continuous service especially when they have given birth to and raised nine children at the same time, like Bella has. Rules like this are bound to discriminate against mothers” said Mr Harawira.

In spite of the association’s decision, the people of Te Rawhiti will honour Bella’s contribution tomorrow (Saturday November 25) in a special celebration at Te Rawhiti Marae in Russell. One of the organisers, Debbie Peacock, said they were expecting about 100 people to attend.

“I just think Bella is an fabulous role model and someone I’m proud to recognise as the Gold Star of Te Rawhiti” ended Mr Harawira.

Bella started as a volunteer fire fighter at Pureora Forest Industrial where she served for five years. As a result of the closure of the forest, Bella and her whanau moved to Mangakino and joined the Mangakino Volunteer Fire Brigade where she served for seven years and six months. Thirteen years ago she and her whanau moved north to Te Rawhiti where she joined Te Rawhiti Rural Fire Force. She is currently Chief of this force which has thirteen crew members.

ENDS

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