The Porirua Volunteer Fire Brigade started as a need of the community of Porirua, a small fledgling town bursting forth under government housing development in 1950.
It has been documented previously in this book, the first 21 years. What has changed over the next 29 years has shown that even though the community may change, their needs do not, an emergency service that can instantly respond when required. Porirua City has grown tremendously in the last 25 years but it is still reliant on the Porirua Fire Brigade as its initial emergency service whether it be fire, flood, hazardous substance, and no doubt they would probably be called for pestilence problems also.
There have been changes in the fire service over the last 50 years with the need to have paid fire fighters employed because of the growth from a small borough to a major city. Until about 10 years ago the volunteer part of the Brigade changed very little in structure just with personnel changing or going into the paid staff as many volunteers had done over the years, but since then the volunteers have been struggling to survive as a volunteer identity. The majority of the public do not realise that volunteers are part of the Porirua Fire Brigade, they only see or hear of the paid staff in the news media etc.
The decline in volunteers has come about since the advent of 7 day shopping within the city, the changes in the fire service and the decline in people wanting to become involved in their overall community and not their own small sector.
Spare time is what people do not seem to have these days. Over the last few years we have lost countless volunteers who are now having to work longer hours over 7 days, employers who will no longer allow employees time off to attend emergency callouts or weekend training because time means money or loss of it.
Another significant reason for the decline recently has been the changes made or attempted to be made by the Fire Service Commission. This has changed the nature of Porirua Fire Brigade with fewer of the paid staff coming from the volunteer ranks but from outside the fire service altogether. The prolonged problems between the professional fire fighters union and the fire service commission with both trying to use the volunteers to their own ends causing what used to be a close knit service to fragment, brother against brother. Should a volunteer speak to this D1, or that CST or even an executive officer without one or other getting the wrong idea? Both the commission and the union put a lot of pressure on volunteer composite brigades over the past years causing many skilled and dedicated volunteers to leave not wanting to upset either factions where many friendships have been forged over many years of association.
The climate today has improved greatly with the changes in the commission and open dialogue between the paid and volunteer members at Porirua. The volunteers showing that all they want to do is serve their community as they have done since 1950 and not take paid members jobs as some may have thought.
The organising of the 50th anniversary has brought back together many of the members of both paid and volunteers to work as one once again as many of the paid and volunteer staff came from Porirua volunteers or other volunteer brigades in the region, remembering their roots so to speak.
Porirua City is lucky to have such a fire service whether it be the skill and professionalism of the paid members or the dedication of the volunteers, we are both here to do the same thing – “to serve our community of Porirua City the best we know how”.
Officer in Charge Porirua Volunteers