Four volunteer firefighters allegedly assaulted in South Otago, protection for first responders needed urgently

In South Otago, two people have been charged after volunteer firefighters attending a house fire we assaulted. The first responders were called to the blaze on Eddystone St, in Kaitangata, about 9.30 pm on Tuesday and were only a few houses away from the house.

Four firefighters were assaulted, however details of the assault were not known. A 37-year-old man  and a 39-year-old woman were charged over the incident, and are expected to appear in the Dunedin District Court on Wednesday.

This incident adds to a long list of examples of first responders being assaulted while on the job, not only risking the lives of these personnel but also impairing their ability to respond to the emergency situation they have been called out for.

New Zealand First MP Darroch Ball tabled a bill early this year mandating serious penalties for anyone who assaults first responders. Perpetrators would face a minimum of six months' jail under the member's bill. First responders are defined to include police, emergency health and fire service staff, and prison officers.

The Protection for First Responders and Prison Officers Bill would add first responders to the current charge of assault against a constable, prison officer, or traffic officer under the Summary Offences Act, which carries a maximum penalty of six months' jail or a $4000 fine.

Speaking on the bill, Ball said that New Zealand “needs to draw a line in the sand. We need to protect the protectors. It is clear a deterrent is needed [to stop these assaults]”.

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