Firefighter takes Fire and Emergency NZ to Waitangi Tribunal

By Marena Mane

Senior Māori firefighter, Allan Brown, from the Hastings Fire Station, has filed a Waitangi Tribunal claim against Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), arguing the organisation, has ignored and neglected Māori-led solutions, including an educational programme called, Te Kōtuku that Brown has been running for more than 20 years.

Brown, of Ngāti Kahungunu, says the reason for his claim is he has witnessed injustices of bias and discrimination and is making a stand on behalf of his whānau, hapū and iwi.

“We have laws and rules and, if you are a witness to an injustice, then you’re obliged to speak up.”

Brown feels that his expertise as a senior firefighter and his work within the community is being ignored by FENZ.

“What Fire and Emergency is saying is that your mātauranga or your knowledge that you have is of no value. The mātauranga that we get handed down from our uncles and aunties is it has no value and pretty much we’re uneducated people,” Brown says.

Due to changes happening within his community, Brown saw an opportunity to establish an educational bilingual programme called, Te Kōtuku almost 20 years ago to build resilience and reduce harm but received no support from FENZ.

“I've been supported mainly by the ACC. I've been supported by also the police and I've also been supported by Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori.”

Māui-tinei-ahi programme

“FENZ is reluctant to support our kaupapa Māori-driven programme from firefighters.”

Brown is hopeful that the Waitangi Tribunal will agree there are injustices.

“There would be reasons that the Waitangi Tribunal should look at my claim as soon as possible in order to reduce harm.”

In a statement FENZ deputy chief executive of kaupapa Māori and cultural communities,Piki Thomas says he cannot comment on Brown’s claim as it is an active matter before the Waitangi Tribunal but says the Pou Takawaenga Māori team, which works closely with iwi, Māori and Māori organisations across regions is ensuring the organisation remains responsive to Māori.

FENZ has established an external flagship programme called Māui-tinei-ahi, which is like Firewise for mainstream but is built particularly for kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa Māori, kaiako and kaumātua, which includes Te Aho Matua and Whāriki frameworks.

In July this year, FENZ launched Te Aho Tapu – a framework to assess and progress the cultural capability of firefighters - and all new firefighter classroom presentation resources for Firewise are delivered in both English and Te Reo Māori

FENZ also launched Hiwa-i-te-rangi last year, an internal programme to improve the way it serves Māori and the initiatives from Hiwa-i-te-rangi will lay the groundwork for the organisation to build on over the next 10 years.