In one of its final acts before it ceases to exist tomorrow, the Otago Rural Fire Authority has overseen the handover of two new water tankers to rural fire forces in the Waitaki district.
The 7000-litre capacity tankers, each valued at about $140,000, were officially handed over to the ORFA by Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher last Wednesday during a meeting of the Waitaki District Council.
ORFA principal rural fire officer Phil Marsh said the tankers had been allocated to the Waitaki Volunteer Rural Fire Force and the Kurow Volunteer Fire Brigade.
“It’s going to ensure that we can continue the plan that we have to make sure we have the right resources available to our volunteers and our communities,” he said.
The tankers were funded through ORFA reserves and the National Rural Fire Authority.
While the tankers handed over last week were not funded by the council, the purchase of other equipment in this year’s replacement programme was thanks to council funding.
Mr Kircher said it was important any equipment funded through money contributed by Waitaki ratepayers stayed in the district.
“Our main concern was that the ratepayers’ assets stayed here in the district, and they have.”
From tomorrow, ORFA is replaced by a new entity, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, created under the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017 that was passed in May.
It will take over responsibility for all services delivered by urban, rural, professional and volunteer fire services.
Council involvement with the provision of rural fire services, something that was required under the Forest and Rural Fires Act, has also been terminated.
That means the council no longer needs to fund a portion of costs.
In a report tabled at last week’s council meeting, WDC chief financial officer Paul Hope said the future of an establishment loan between ORFA and the council, and an unused depreciation reserve, would be “discussed at a later meeting” once Fire and Emergency New Zealand’s position on the loan was established.