4 Nov 2013

Reduction of fire cover at Blenheim Airport worries locals

10:07 am on 4 November 2013

A former chief fire officer says the recent reduction to on-site fire and rescue cover at Blenheim Airport is asking too much of volunteer firefighters.

Allan Newman, from Renwick, has spoken out after it emerged about 115 flights a week will have no on-site emergency cover.

Twenty-four hour cover had previously been provided by the Defence Force at neighbouring RNZAF Woodbourne, but budget cuts have now limited that to weekdays between 8am and 5pm.

This means the nearest fire crew available is a volunteer force from Renwick, who will take about 15 minutes to get to the airport.

Mr Newman, who was the chief fire officer at Renwick for 11 years, says it is placing an enormous strain on the volunteer crews.

"It's not only the aircraft flights in and out, but also there's plating bays, and engineering shops and hangers full of equipment. Once there was a team there that responded immediately and then we got the call and we could assist them by backing them up."

The Civil Aviation Authority says only airports with regular flights of more than 30 passengers need to have their own on-site fire cover, and most regional airports, such as Blenheim, don't fit that bill.

The Defence Force says providing emergency services at Blenheim is not its responsibility.