Firefighting chief has spearheaded change
By Roger Moroney
Queen’s Service Order
PAUL BAXTER, who has been awarded the Queen’s Service Order, began his firefighting career in Hawke’s Bay at the foot of the ladder but during his 35 years’ service climbed to the top rung.
Now he is at the top of the service ladder across the Tasman where he is serving as commissioner of Fire and Rescue New South Wales – Australia’s largest urban fire and rescue service.
He took up the role in March after five years as the national commander of the New Zealand Fire Service where he was lauded for his leadership and commitment.
In thanking Mr Baxter for his service to New Zealand firefighting, on the front line and at managerial level, Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said his dedication to the role had been “critical” in ensuring the country’s fire services were ready for the changes ahead.
Mr Baxter said while he was sad to leave the service after so many years he looked forward to the challenges ahead.
“The New Zealand Fire Service is in great shape for the next chapter in its history and the transition to Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) is in good hands,” he said.
New Zealand Fire Service Commission board chairman Paul Swain said Mr Baxter had spearheaded the drive for change in New Zealand’s urban and rural fire services for many years.
“He has made a huge contribution to this country’s fire services in his time.”
Mr Baxter said he was humbled by the QSO honour.
“But it’s only through the work of so many others as well. It is recognition for all.”
Mr Baxter, who attended Tamatea High School, started out as a volunteer for what was then the Napier Fire Brigade in 1981 before becoming a career firefighter in 1986.
He also did time as a firefighter with the New Zealand Air Force.
In the Bay, his rise through the ranks saw him promoted to chief fire officer for the Napier district in 1998 and in 2007 he was appointed Eastern Fire Region manager.
Mr Baxter was appointed national commander by the Fire Service Commission in October 2011 and officially took up the role in January 2012.
Photo caption – PAUL BAXTER, QSO
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