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Source: New Zealand Government

Minister for Internal Affairs, Jan Tinetti, and Minister of Defence, Peeni Henare, have today announced that 150 Fire and Emergency New Zealand personnel and 145 members of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) have been awarded the Australian National Emergency Medal, with Bushfires 19/20 Clasp, as part of a group of 384 New Zealanders who travelled to Australia to fight the massive bushfires over the 2019/20 summer.

The Australian National Emergency Medal is awarded by the Australian Government for sustained or significant service during national emergencies in Australia. It has a clasp for each event, to indicate which national emergency a person responded to. The medal has been awarded to Australians for five specific emergencies since 2009, the first being the 2009 Victorian Bushfires.

“The award of this medal is recognition for the efforts of all these personnel in an arduous and often dangerous environment,” Jan Tinetti said.

“Their outstanding contribution to fighting the massive and catastrophic fires that engulfed many thousands of hectares of bushland from late 2019 reflects the quality of our people and their training.

“Our Fire and Emergency team were accompanied by 89 others from longstanding partners that are so important to international and domestic wildfire deployments, including 27 personnel from the Department of Conservation and representatives of more than a dozen forestry companies.

“As Minister responsible for Fire and Emergency New Zealand, I’m proud to acknowledge, alongside my colleague the Minister of Defence, this cohort of 384 as being the largest group of New Zealanders by far to receive the Australian National Emergency Medal.”

This is the first time personnel from Fire and Emergency and the NZDF have been awarded the Australian National Emergency Medal, with the only previous occasion it has been awarded to New Zealanders being to nine New Zealand Police who assisted with victim identification in response to the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

Minister Henare says NZDF played a multifaceted role, with NZDF firefighters and other personnel, including combat engineers and health support, assisting Australian authorities and the Australian Defence Force during what became known as the ‘Black Summer.’ NZDF NH90 helicopters and crew also deployed to assist.

“The work of our personnel varied from firefighting to transporting fuel and water, and supplies such as hay for livestock, clearing routes, removing trees which were blocking roads, and creating critical fire breaks. Our personnel also contributed to the massive efforts to support wildlife that survived the fires,” Peeni Henare said.

“As the Government’s Defence Priorities reflect, the skilled, brave, and dedicated people of the NZDF are our best asset. It is appropriate that their significant contribution to this massive effort is recognised through these awards.”

Both Ministers Tinetti and Henare acknowledged the service of all the New Zealanders who travelled to Australia to support our Australian counterparts.

“The compassion and commitment of our people at this critical time for our Australian friends helped limit the loss of life and devastation to critical infrastructure and supported the local communities while also assisting in early reconstruction,” Jan Tinetti said.

Arrangements are underway to see that all those who’ve been awarded the Australian National Emergency Medal receive them in a fitting way later this year.