DOC staff at the Christchurch awards ceremony
Image: Jo McPherson | DOC

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


Twenty-seven DOC staff have been recognised for their efforts fighting the devastating Australian wildfires in the 2019/2020 summer.

Date:  11 November 2022

The DOC staff were among 384 New Zealanders awarded the Australia National Emergency Medal with Bushfires 19/20 medal. Firefighters from Fire and Emergency NZ, the NZ Defence Force, and forestry companies were also recognised.

The Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Her Excellency Harinder Sidhu, presented the medals in ceremonies at the Ohakea NZ Defence Force Base and in Auckland and Christchurch recently. They are awarded by the Australian Government to those who gave sustained or significant service during an Australian National Emergency.

Hundreds of fires burnt across more than 14 million hectares of Australia during the summer of 2019/20.

DOC Greymouth Senior Ranger Community Sam Speight was in a four person DOC crew which deployed to Australia in February 2020, with stints in the Snowy Mountains and in Coastal New South Wales.

He said the peak of the fire had passed at that stage. The crew worked 12 hour shifts, mostly responding to remote hotspots and active pockets of fire often burning inside hollowed-out logs or standing hollow trees.

“It’s really special being able to help out our Australian friends when these unfortunate events kick off. In my case, with the fire winding down, all the local fire fighters and volunteers were feeling run down and exhausted after committing all their time over the last couple months to attacking the fire and evacuating communities, so it was great to be able to help.”

“Being awarded this medal shows the regard the entire New Zealand contingent is held in. It also recognises the efforts of all the people needed to make a mass deployment of firefighters like this work, whether it be partners and loved ones holding down the fort at home or colleagues in the office having to pick up extra work due to your absence.”

Sam Speight said the deployments he has been on as a rural firefighter have been a privilege and a highlight of his career at DOC.

DOC National Fire Manager Aroha Hughes said the medals were an important acknowledgement from the Australian Government and staff were proud to receive them.

“While none of our firefighters do the work for this sort of recognition, it’s always great to see their efforts acknowledged."

“DOC has a team of highly skilled and committed firefighters who do a superb job responding to fires here in New Zealand. It’s terrific that they were able to help our neighbours across the ditch while also gaining some valuable experience they can use back home.”


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