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Emergency Management and Fire Safety

Source: New Zealand Official Yearbook 2000. Please note, this information may now be out of date.

Emergency management

The Ministry for Emergency Management (MEM) was established, effective 1 July 1999 and was formed out of the Ministry of Civil Defence. The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is MEM's host department and provides the ministry with core administrative services. DIA's chief executive is also the Secretary for Civil Defence.

The ministry's emphasis is on seeking sustainable, long-term solutions to managing the risks arising from emergency events (natural, such as earthquakes, or technological, such as chemical spills) by ensuring that effective risk management is an integral part of day-to-day business decision making.

The Government's objectives for 1999–2000 will be progressed through the establishment of approximately 15 emergency management groups (EMGs), and the introduction of the new Emergency Management Bill which will give legislative force to the new arrangements and replace the Civil Defence Act 1983.

The ministry has also assumed the roles and responsibilities for recovery from emergency events, transferred from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Ministry of Civil Defense & Emergency Management -

Fire protection

Fire protection involves fire safety and operational firefighting. These services are managed nationally by the New Zealand Fire Service on behalf of the New Zealand Fire Service Commission. The primary emphasis on fire safety is determined by legislation in the Fire Service Act 1975.

New Zealand Fire Service Commission

The New Zealand Fire Service Commission is responsible for ensuring all statutory requirements set down in the terms of the Fire Service Act 1975 are met. The commission is also the purchasing and policy setting agency.

The commission consists of three commissioners appointed by government with the Secretary for Internal Affairs being the fourth member. The commission is also the National Rural Fire Authority, set up under the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977. The authority is responsible for coordinating 112 rural fire authorities which operate in areas outside the designated urban fire districts in which operational firefighting is provided by the New Zealand Fire Service.

New Zealand Fire Service: Whakaratonga Iwi

The New Zealand Fire Service has an operating structure designed to deliver improved decision-making response and resources to front line operations. Senior managers are specifically responsible for fire safety and the enhancement of fire safety technology and legislation. Fire service and fire prevention are the service's key aims.

Of the 359 fire districts, 19 are served mainly by paid firefighters with some stations augmented by volunteers. The majority are staffed by volunteer firefighters. There are 1,515 paid, 8,000 volunteer and 3,000 rural firefighters, and 428 support staff (including those working in the three communications centres in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch).

The net cost of funding the New Zealand Fire Service Commission, after allowance for miscellaneous income, is met by a levy on insured property which is collected by the insurance industry.

For the year ended 30 June 1999 contributions from the levy totalled $166,322,000. This compares with levies of $172,630,000 and a government contribution of $12,496,000 for the year ended 30 June 1998. Other spending funded by miscellaneous revenue amounted to $7,153,000 compared with $15,812,000 for the 1998 year.

New Zealand Fire Service -

Incidents attended by fire brigades, 1996–99

Year ended 30 June








Hazardous substance emergencies




Vehicle incidents




Medical emergencies




Other emergencies




False alarm calls




Total incidents attended




Source: NZ Fire Service

Fire statistics

Forty-two people died as a result of fires in the year ended 30 June 1999, compared with 46 in the year ended 30 June 1998.

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