Picton firefighters mark the end of an era
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.
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.