Firefighter files treaty claim against FENZ

By Will Trafford

Picture / File

A veteran Māori firefighter says he’s been forced to take Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) to the Waitangi Tribunal over a disparity in how it addresses Māori issues.

Allan Brown has run a programme which educates Māori on fire danger for 20 years, but says the service has starved it for resource and he’s had to fund the programme himself.

“There are inequities within Fire and Emergency New Zealand that sideline and marginalize people like me and this kind of work,” Brown told TVNZ.

“In my mind, FENZ are falling short of their treaty obligations.

Māori are three times more likely to die in fires than tauiwi, something which Brown says he’s spent $30,000 educating his community in the East Coast, to fix.

The now 64-year-old says, now just a year out from retirement, is demanding the service take on his mahi.

“By putting in a claim of bias, putting in a claim of discrimination, I can address concerns of inequities of what I've seen in FENZ.” Brown said.

“People who live in poverty may not have the resources or the information available to them to keep themselves safe from fires and other dangers, the unpreparedness for an emergency may mean a slower response which can lead to serious injury or a loss of life,”

Fire and Emergency New Zealand says it recognises the status of Māori as tangata whenua, and acknowledges Māori are disproportionately affected by fire, but argues it partners with Iwi and community leaders and intends to scale-up programmes in the future.

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