Skip to main content
Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




To enable it to carry out these and other duties, the Council is required to appoint a Chief Fire Service Officer, a Secretary, and such other officers as it considers necessary. All such persons appointed by the Council are officers of the Public Service.

In 1965 there were 249 autonomous fire authorities each administering the affairs of an urban fire district, which may be a united fire district (larger municipalities), a fire district, or a secondary fire district (small boroughs or county towns). In each district there is a fire brigade with a chief fire officer, deputy chief fire officer, and such other officers and firemen as are required to afford the necessary standard of protection. There are 24 fire authorities employing paid staff and usually referred to as permanent fireman, as opposed to the volunteer firemen who man the remaining 225 fire brigades. The 803 permanent firemen, whose conditions of employment are governed by industrial awards, operate under a duty system of 24 hours on duty, followed by 24 hours off duty, with six weeks' annual leave. Some 6,000 volunteer firemen are volunteers in the true sense of the word, but in some brigades receive a token payment for attendances at fires and drills.

The year 1954 saw the beginning of the Fire Services Coordination Scheme for rural fire protection and operation at emergency fires. With the introduction of that scheme it became mandatory for fire brigades to attend all property fires within 5 road miles of their fire stations, whether or not such fires were within their gazetted fire districts, the cost of such attendances to be recovered from the rural local authority in whose territory the fires occur. Outside the gazetted urban fire district, all fires other than property fires (i.e., grass, scrub, forest fires, etc.) remain the responsibility of the rural local authority, which is a rural fire authority under the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1947. For operations at serious fires there is provision for mutual assistance between neighbouring brigades, and for emergencies there is the Regional Mobilising Scheme. For the purposes of this scheme the whole of New Zealand is divided into 16 regions, each under the control of a regional officer, who in each case is the chief fire officer of the principal fire brigade in the region. The regional officer is responsible for providing reinforcements for fires beyond the scope of the mutual assistance scheme, and for that purpose has the right to call on all brigades within his region, but at the same time has a responsibility to ensure that no town is left unprotected. Provision is made for regional control to revert to a designated secondary control, should regional control for any reason become inoperative. Should it be necessary to seek assistance from outside any one region, mobilising then comes under the control of the Council's Chief Fire Service Officer.

The headquarters of the Fire Service (the offices of the Fire Service Council) is at Island Bay, Wellington, where is situated also the Fire Service Training School, a residential school which was opened on 11 March 1958.

by Thomas Arthur Varley, O.B.E., M.I.FIRE.E., formerly Chief Fire Service Officer, Wellington.

  • New Zealand Statutes: Municipal Corporations Acts, 1867, 1876, 1900, 1920
  • Fire Brigades Acts, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1926
  • Fire Services Act 1949 (reprinted 1958)
  • New Zealand Statutory Regulations: Fire Services Regulations 1954
  • Fire Services Code of Practices, 1954
  • Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives