In February and March this year the Tasman District experienced one of the bigger vegetation fires we’ve had in New Zealand for decades. Local volunteer crews were supported by significant resources nationally, regionally, and locally, both within Fire and Emergency and with our partner agencies. Over many weeks our people worked together with other emergency services, local government, and with partner agencies to provide support to the Tasman District community, and ultimately, to bring that event to a successful conclusion.

There are always lessons to take from any event, but particularly one with the severity and scale of the Tasman Fires. We are committed to continuous improvement and this was an opportunity to learn more about managing large wildfires better for the safety of the community and our crews.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand commissioned an independent operational review of our management of the Tasman Fires, which was conducted by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC).

The results of this review are being publicly released today at a press conference at Richmond Fire Station. I wanted to share the review with you in advance of this event.

Key review findings

The review was largely positive, and we accept its findings and recommendations.

The reviewers found we managed the Tasman Fires in a way that was “positive and successful… with ample evidence of lessons having been taken from the Port Hills review and incidents in Australia”.

The reviewers said “… the outcomes of this fire season should give the community in New Zealand a level of confidence that Fire and Emergency New Zealand is able to manage these significant incidents and take appropriate actions aimed at keeping the community safe”.

The review didn’t consider the wider Civil Defence operation, the action of other agencies, or the overall interagency response to the fires.

You can read the Tasman Fires independent review and recommendations (external link)on our website. 

Next steps

We are now working on how we will incorporate the 12 review recommendations into our work programme.

These recommendations build on changes we have already made as Fire and Emergency New Zealand in response to the Port Hills independent review, for example, the single incident management system and regular training exercises with partner agencies to ensure consistency.

Once again, thank you to everyone who contributed this event: the local volunteer crews who were first to respond and last to leave; the local people, agencies, and iwi in the Tasman District; and the big team of firefighters and non-operational people who came together from across the country to focus our resources on this event. Your skill and dedication to containing the fire and preventing loss of life and property was outstanding.

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