Kerry Gregory welcomed into the top job at Fire and Emergency

By James Perry

The new chief executive of Fire and Emergency, Kerry Gregory, says it's a proud moment not only for himself but for all Māori firefighters.

"That has to be good from a role modelling perspective and people being able to see that anyone from any diversity and any ethnic minority can move through any organisation by doing a really good job and wanting to do what is right by New Zealand."

Gregory (Ngāti Maru) was welcomed into the role last week with a powhiri in Wellington and becomes the first Māori to sit at the helm of the national organisation that manages the fire service. He told his appointment is an opportunity for FENZ to continue giving back to communities up and down the country.

"Māori are overrepresented in a lot of our statistics and it's really a chance now to build on the culture that we have in Māoridom, and also connect with those communities to save lives and help people."

Approximately half of the house fires in Aotearoa occur in homes without working smoke alarms, Māori are more likely to suffer from house fires than any other group. FENZ has developed strategies with community groups and iwi to help get the message to whānau about being fire-wise.

"That is a challenge for any organisation -how we really connect with the people across Aotearoa. It's actually working with Māori to understand how we can get into those homes. Every community is different, every iwi is different across the country, so it's not about saying this is how we'll do it but it's working with people to understand in partnership we can actually give effect to save people's lives and give people that resilience that they need." 

Kerry Gregory is welcomed as CEO of FENZ with a pōwhiri in Wellington. Photo/file

Gregory is looking forward to strengthening the relationships already created by FENZ with Māori, which he says has become evident in recent times, particularly during the large wildfires that raged across the country over the summer "through the Waiharahara fire up north and the Tasman firea."

He says it shows how connected FENZ is at the iwi level, working together for some of those fires.

Wild fires in December 2021 destroyed 2000ha of scrub in Northland. Photo/File

Gregory was appointed to the role in February, replacing Rhys Jones after his five-year term came to an end. Previously, Gregory was national commander and deputy chief executive among a number of leadership positions in his so-far 32-year career with the fire service.