16 Mar 2016

Volunteer firefighter sues Fire Service

2:55 pm on 16 March 2016

A man who says he was unlawfully investigated five times by the Fire Service is suing it and calling for protective legislation for volunteers.

Fire service block off the footpath at 139 Hastings Road Napier.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Brent Cairns was a volunteer firefighter in Kaiapoi for nine years before he was dismissed in April last year.

He says he was investigated five times by management over a 20 month period, but was cleared of any wrong doing.

"A senior Fire Service manager made two complaints against me and then investigated the complaints - the whole system is flawed."

Mr Cairns has filed a law suit against the Fire Service with seven claims including defamation.

He is calling for the Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne to launch an inquiry into how the service is run, and for legislation which protects volunteers against bullying and corruption.

"There is an issue with how they conduct investigations. They claim they are independent but they are not independent at all.

"I've been getting phone calls from all around the country of other volunteers telling me of very similar circumstances, so it's not a one off."

Volunteers have no protection because there is no legislation or union to represent them, he said.

"Its not about the money but more about the fact I want to get back into the volunteer brigade and serve my community."

The New Zealand Fire Service said it was aware of Mr Cairns' concerns.

It said Mr Cairns' concerns have been the subject of a number of investigations, including some conducted by external, independent barristers.

The NZFS said it was considering the details of Mr Cairns' claims and would not be making any more detailed comment while the matter is before courts.