The purpose of Women’s Development is to promote and facilitate the successful participation of women in fire and emergency roles.

We connect women, support them and influence decision makers to identify and resolve any issues and challenges they may face. This is to ensure we attract, retain, and develop our wāhine within Fire and Emergency NZ.

Connection with Women in Fire and Emergency New Zealand (WFENZ)

A key focus for us is to connect women in fire and emergency roles. There are a number of ways you can get involved, visit our networking page to find out more or email us now

Women that are already in the fire services are invited to join our Facebook group(external link)

Siobhan Flanigan - Thames Vol Brigade. Photo by Dr Paul Aslop (2012))

Siobhan Flanigan - Thames Vol Brigade. Photo by Dr Paul Aslop (2012)

Women’s development

The Women in Fire and Emergency New Zealand (WFENZ) network was formally established in 2016 to identify, support and grow the talent of our operational women. Through WFENZ, we connected with over 460 women in operational roles (approximately a quarter), including both volunteers and career staff. This gave us an insight into the perspectives and experiences of our frontline women – the challenges and issues they face, and the things that work well.

As a result of this engagement, we developed a Regional Women's Advisory Network (RWAN) in each of the five regions. These RWANs are closely connected to our women on the ground, their regional leaders and our National Women’s Development team. Their insights are influencing our priorities in creating an inclusive workplace culture and, more specifically, helping to establish priorities for improving the recruitment, retention and development of women across the organisation.

The regional networks also feed into the National Women's Advisory Committee.

Amelia Woodley - Clandeboye VRFF. Photo by Ned Dawson (2020)

A message from Fire and Emergency New Zealand Chief Executive, Rhys Jones

Fire and Emergency New Zealand is creating an organisation where everyone feels safe, welcome and included, regardless of gender, ethnicity, role or thinking; one that embraces the diversity of all our people.

I want to acknowledge all women in Fire and Emergency and all those who have supported and championed for them. We have a proud history of women responding to emergencies in New Zealand, but the journey for some in our organisation hasn’t been easy.

These days, fighting fires is just one aspect of our role, along with attending incidents such as medical calls and motor vehicle accidents, supported by a much broader range of administrative and planning functions. Reflecting the make-up of the communities we serve is increasingly important.

Our personnel need a different range of talents, skills, and knowledge than the firefighters of the past - for example, empathy, a second language, trade skills, and the ability to engage with an audience.

We’ve seen a steady increase in women taking up operational roles in firefighting over the years, but they still make up a very small percentage of our organisation, particularly in leadership roles. The support and connections for women at all levels of our organisation via the Women in Fire and Emergency NZ network (WFENZ) is hugely valuable as we create a unified fire and emergency service for New Zealand.

Rhys Jones
Chief Executive, Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Since the 1940s, women in New Zealand have played an active role in the provision of urban and rural fire services. However, over 75 years later only 3 per cent of all career firefighters, and 15 per cent of volunteer firefighters are women. This means that often only one woman will be assigned to a station or a crew.

In 2001, a small group of career female firefighters met in Auckland and formed New Zealand Fire Service Women (NZFSW). The aim was to address gender isolation relating to women in the New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS). Encouraging women to network, share experiences and ideas, and provide peer support was the key focus of the group. Unfortunately the group struggled to reach a wider audience.

In June 2015, progressive management invited female career and volunteer personnel from every region to attend a meeting to discuss reviving the women’s group. This discussion resulted in the formation of Women in Fire and Emergency New Zealand (WFENZ).

The women of the Athol rural brigadeThe women of the Athol rural brigade: 

Kylie Sutton, Tabatha Davison, Deborah Howie.

WFENZ aims to connect women in Fire and Emergency to a community that promotes the participation and success of women in fire and emergency roles.

  • Promoting success and inspiring others through sharing our stories.
  • Providing opportunities to network and make connections with other women in fire and emergency roles.
  • Sharing ideas and advice, and discussing issues faced by women.
  • Influence written policy that affects women such as the pregnancy policy
  • Facilitated communication and discussion via e-mail groups and a members-only Facebook group
  • Established a national network with representatives in the 5 regions including rural women
  • Establishing smaller, short term working groups to help facilitate the participation, and success of women in fire services.
  • Input to the establishment of a National Advisor for Women’s Development in 2015
  • Establishment of the National Women’s Advisory Committee
  • Representation on the board of Women and Firefighting Australasia (WAFA)
  • Identifying groups for inclusion under the rebranded Fire and Emergency New Zealand
  • Maintaining a high profile within the organisation to encourage new recruits and progression

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