The Fire Protection Association of New Zealand (FPANZ) has forged closer ties with the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) over the last year, with the two organisations working together on several key initiatives, says Scott Lawson, FPANZ executive director.
“MBIE is actively engaging us as industry experts. We are sitting with them on a number of working groups as part of their Fire Regulation Development Programme and have just been asked to submit people to work on three new projects.”
Scott says the development programme incorporates around 15 different projects, which cover various initiatives such as passive fire protection systems, construction monitoring post construction compliance, Structural stability in Fire, compliance, and the evacuation of disabled persons in commercial buildings.
“These issues are dear to our hearts as well, and as an industry group working on behalf of our members, we are pleased to be participating in any discussions around legislative changes that may occur. MBIE realises they cannot be experts in every field, so it encouraging the Ministry is seeking that experience and expertise from supporting trades in the market place.”
The work with MBIE is in line with the five main special interest groups represented by FPANZ – passive fire protection, hand-operated fire fighting equipment, inspectorate, a contractors’ group, and an evacuation group.
“From these groups we offer people back to MBIE with the appropriate experience and expertise in the fields that relate to each project. We do that in a fairly transparent manner, by calling for expressions of interest from our membership base, and matching the best people for each specific project with the requirements set out by MBIE. It is about ensuring the people with the right skills are engaged, rather than simply tapping people on the shoulder to do the work.”
Standards NZ have also been brought under the umbrella of MBIE, with some “updates afoot to some fire standards like NZS4512 , NZS4541” to ensure they keep pace with the rapid technological advances in the industry, he says.
“We are aware our standards require regular maintenance to keep up with technological changes. An example of this is wireless fire alarm systems, a solution not even considered 10 years ago but which now has numerous advantages. The existing standard was written around hardwired fire alarm systems, so it needs to be updated to ensure it relates to current solutions and products available globally.” Again we would look to engage with our members to ensure their input helps drive these changes.
Scott says the strength and diversity of its membership base is one of the main strengths of FPANZ, which sets it apart as the national body for fire safety information.
“We truly are the voice of the New Zealand fire protection industry, and although this is a catchphrase regularly bandied about, it is a true reflection of the fire sector. Our membership includes everything from one or two man operators to large multi-nationals, with our national council having elected representatives ranging from fire consultants, inspection companies, product suppliers, installation and service companies, to representatives from the NZ Fire Service and MBIE. An extremely wide scope of people are involved in the strategic direction of the organisation.”
Scott says the association is looking forward to its annual conference called Fire NZ 2016, which will take place on 9, 10 and 11 November at ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane.
“The Fire NZ brand has grown year in and year out and has become a very slick event. We invite a number of international experts to speak, who are either consultants or representatives of offshore associations or companies. They enjoy the opportunity to speak to delegates and see what is happening within the fire and construction sectors in New Zealand.”
The event, with the theme ‘How Safe is Safe?’ is expected to attract close to 300 delegates, and around 50 exhibitors who will operate stands in a “free to trade” exhibition.
“We charge to attend the conference, however anyone in the construction sector is welcome to attend the trade exhibition free of charge. It is a great place to see a wide range of products and speak to all the experts in one place.”
Also planned for Fire NZ 2016 is a Careers Day, to which the industry hopes to attract young people to learn about some of the exciting career options available in fire protection.
“There are a number of areas such as passive fire protection, fire alarms, sprinkler and fire engineering where young people can get involved and learn a good trade. It is something we are actively keen to promote.”