The head of the New Zealand Fire Service holds a dual role; Chief Executive Officer (corporate leader) and National Commander (operational commander-in-chief). Mike Hall held this position until he retired from the NZ Fire Service on 31 December 2011.
The National Commander position inherently involves considerable travel. The New Zealand Fire Service Commission expects senior staff to carry out their duties while keeping their travelling costs modest and reasonable. Mike Hall's travel was appropriate for the responsible and prudent discharge of his managerial and operational responsibilities.
The Fire Service operates throughout the country. It has 450 fire stations with 1800 career staff and 8500 volunteers. The National Commander travels to maintain contacts with firefighters, build morale and camaraderie. He attends many official brigade functions recognising long service and reinforcing the appreciation the Service, and the public, attaches to the work of unpaid volunteers.
Over the past 18 months NZFS deployed personnel from throughout the country to the two major Christchurch earthquakes and the Pike River Coal Mine disaster. These required extensive by the National Commander travel to lead, support and thank those involved.
The suppliers of fire fighters' protective clothing, breathing apparatus, fire appliances, pumps and other equipment are based in Germany, Italy and the United States.
In his decade at the helm Mike Hall led a major asset modernisation and development programme, including the establishment of Urban Search and Rescue teams. Equipment supply contracts are valued at tens of millions of dollars each year. To foster strong relationships, remain close to product innovations and ensure the continuity of supply and service, the National Commander visited suppliers every two years or so.
The National Commander represented New Zealand on the board of the Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC). AFAC benefits New Zealand through information sharing on emergency service developments (technological and managerial). AFAC supports the effective deployment of personnel between NZ and Australia in times of emergency, whether it is bushfires or floods (Queensland) there, or earthquakes here.
Finally, the innovation and modernisation of the New Zealand Fire Service over the past decade is of significant interest to the international emergency services community. The National Commander was a respected and sought-after speaker at overseas emergency service conferences.