Pic­ton fire­fight­ers mark the end of an era

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - JEF­FREY KITT

Af­ter 145 years of ser­vice to the com­mu­nity, the Pic­ton Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade will her­ald a new era of fire­fight­ing in New Zealand.

The Marl­bor­ough bri­gade al­ways holds its an­nual hon­ours night on the first Satur­day of July. This year’s event just so hap­pens to fall on the largest or­gan­i­sa­tional shakeup to fire ser­vices in New Zealand in more than 70 years.

Fire and Emer­gency New Zealand (FENZ), which brings to­gether the ur­ban and ru­ral fire author­i­ties un­der one um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion, also starts on Satur­day.

As such, Pic­ton will be the last fire sta­tion in the coun­try to hold an hon­ours evening un­der the old ban­ner of New Zealand Fire Ser­vice.

Chief fire of­fi­cer Wayne Wyten­burg says it is pure co­in­ci­dence the days crossed over, but he took it as a good omen.

It is the end of one era but the be­gin­ning of an­other for fire­fight­ers around the coun­try, Wayne says.

‘‘It’s good for our in­dus­try and good for the fu­ture,’’ he says. ‘‘It will fu­ture-proof the ser­vice, our culture and his­tory.’’

Ur­ban and ru­ral crews in Marl­bor­ough have been in talks for more than a year on how the merger would work at a re­gional level. The next three years mark the in­te­gra­tion phase of FENZ. The na­tional body will con­tinue to work to­wards the full merg­ing of ur­ban and ru­ral fire into one uni­fied or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Wayne, who has served with the Pic­ton sta­tion for 25 years, says his team is largely pos­i­tive about the changes.

The na­ture of fire­fight­ing has changed over the years as of­fi­cers at­tend more and more car crashes and med­i­cal events, Wayne says.

‘‘The com­mu­nity looks to the fire ser­vice for that first re­sponse. These changes will help us to re­main as that lead in­dus­try into the fu­ture,’’ he says.

The Pic­ton sta­tion com­prises 30 vol­un­teers and has been in ser­vice since 1872.

A num­ber of awards will be given out on the night, in­clud­ing a life hon­orary medal to Bill Van Zoomeran for 25 years in the New Zealand Fire Ser­vice.

Marl­bor­ough Mayor John Leggett and coun­cil­lor Na­dine Tay­lor are sched­uled to at­tend the hon­ours evening at the Pic­ton Sta­tion on Satur­day.

From 2020, FENZ will be one re­sourced and in­te­grated or­gan­i­sa­tion in Marl­bor­ough and across the coun­try.

PHOTO: SCOTT HAM­MOND/FAIR­FAX NZ

Pic­ton chief fire of­fi­cer Wayne Wyten­burg in front of Pic­ton fire sta­tion, one of the last sta­tions in the coun­try to hold an hon­ours evening un­der the old ban­ner of New Zealand Fire Ser­vice.

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