The Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) Bill passed its third reading on 4 May 2017 and received royal assent on 11 May 2017. The majority of the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act (FENZ Act) comes into force on 1 July 2017. Limited provisions will come into force at a later date.
The FENZ Act marks the most significant reform of New Zealand's fire legislation in 70 years. It creates a single fire organisation Fire and Emergency New Zealand amalgamating 40 different entities and bringing New Zealand's rural, urban, career and volunteer firefighters together for the first time. Other changes made by the FENZ Act include broadening the organisation's functions, changing the way funding is obtained via an insurance levy, and providing more support to volunteers.
The new organisation will be led by former Chief of the Defence Force, Rhys Jones, who became Chief Executive of FENZ on 1 July 2017.
How will this affect local government?
The Transition Project Team is working closely with the 50 territorial authorities (TAs) who currently have responsibility for fire services, to transition these to FENZ. Due to the scale of the amalgamation, not all rural fire services and support provided by TAs will be transferred on 1 July 2017, so transitional agreements with local government are being developed. The Project Team is also liaising with local government on the use of fire response assets and fire permitting.
The FENZ Act repeals TAs' specific bylaw making power for preventing the spread of fires involving vegetation under section 146(c) of the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA). It also contains provisions requiring TAs to amend or revoke "relevant fire bylaws" that are inconsistent with FENZ's new responsibilities (including lighting of fires in open air and setting of fire seasons).