53 NZ firefighters honoured

Friday 18 Nov 2022

A total of 53 firefighters throughout New Zealand have been honoured for their service in helping battle massive Australian bushfires in 2019 and 2020.

Among those who were honoured by the Australian Government with the Australia National Emergency Medal today, 38 are from Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz), two from the New Zealand Army, eight from the New Zealand Air Force, two from the Department of Conservation and three from forestry company partners.

Last Friday’s ceremony in Auckland (Tāmaki Makaurau) was the last of the four hosted by the High Commissioner, with the previous events being held at the Australian High Commission in Wellington, NZ Defence Force Base Ohakea and in Christchurch. In a statement, Fenz said the majority of the contingent personally received their Australia National Emergency Medal with a “Bushfires 19/20″ clasp at one of four official ceremonies across the country, hosted by Australian High Commissioner Harinder Sidhu.

Fenz group manager in Auckland Dave Woon was among those honoured today and described it as “extremely humbling” to hear Sidhu say “once again the Kiwis came when asked. It is extremely humbling because Kiwis don’t usually get acknowledged or want acknowledgment for what they do ... everyone that went were fantastic ambassadors for New Zealand in doing what they did very humbly,” Woon said.

Woon, who has previously been deployed to Britsh Columbia and Canada, told the Herald he went to Australia as the lowest-ranked firefighter, despite working for Fenz for 38 years. “Most of the people who went to Australia, as with any of these deployments, were on very short notice so we had to drop everything, go overseas for 2-3 weeks and work pretty hard alongside a whole lot of people but we just go and do our job to the best of our ability,” Woon said.

Fenz national commander Russell Wood said the Australia National Emergency Medal, for which service must be considered extraordinary, has never been awarded to members of Fenz before. “This is a very rare and special honour that the Australian Government has extended to us ... It reflects the closeness between our countries, that when faced with extreme adversity, we will do everything we can to help each other,” Wood said.

“The bushfires in Australia in 2019 and 2020 were catastrophic, and we were glad we could be there to help them.” The New Zealand contingent of 208 firefighters who travelled to Australia in the summer of 2019/20 included people from Fenz, the Department of Conservation, forestry company partners, and members of the New Zealand Defence Force.

Source: NZ Herald

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