SFPE President’s Report 2019 – Michael James

August 22, 2019

SFPE President’s Report 2019 – Michael James

This report was presented by Michael at the FireNZ 2019 Conference as he concluded his term as President of SFPE (NZ).

This is the end of my two year term as President and it is an opportunity to review what we have achieved in the last two years and look forward to the future.

Michael Presenting President's Report | Origin FireWe are a small society with just over 200 members and of those 200 there are around 40 with SFPE professional membership status and 70 with CPEng status. We are viewed as an essential part of the built environment by the Government, MBIE and Engineering New Zealand by evidence of our inclusion in the recent MBIE consultation on licensing of safety critical professionals. The other safety critical professions are Geotechnical and structural. In my opinion we consistently punch well above our weight. This is partly due to the extensive voluntary effort put in by the executive team and regional representatives, and also due to our collaboration with larger organisations.

We work closely with Engineering New Zealand which has a membership of 22,000 and they have paired us up with the Geotechnical (NZGS approximately 350 members) and Structural (SESOC approximately 2000 members) societies to create a stronger voice to government and share skills and knowledge that are common across the three engineering disciplines. Engineering New Zealand has also been key to enabling us to have constructive engagement with the NZ Institute of Architects.

We also join together with the Fire Protection Association (FPA) of New Zealand and the Institution of Fire Engineers in the organisation of the annual FireNZ conference and also participate in the FPA council meetings. This regular contact builds strong relationships and enables us to work together on common goals. Some examples are our joint presence at last year’s high school careers advisors conference and input into the FPA special interest group on passive fire and their building services fire safety interfaces working group.

We are also able to leverage off SFPE International with its 6000 worldwide membership. In the process of preparing the Body of Knowledge required by a practicing fire engineer we were able to leverage off SFPE Internationals core competencies framework. Last year we put the case to SFPE International that we host the next International Performance Based Codes and Fire Safety Design Methods conference in New Zealand. We were successful and in March next year we will be hosting the 13th International conference in Auckland. Martin Feeney is the co-chair of the organising committee. This conference will bring a raft of top quality international speakers to our shores and will be well worth attending.

When reviewing the last two years we have achieved a lot but there still seems to be a lot to achieved so the question is are we going in the right direction and fast enough? As part of SFPE’s submission to MBIE on the occupational licensing of fire engineers I examined the ability of a licensed fire engineer to control the fire safety outcome of building design and construction. I had to acknowledge that the largest chunk of fire safety work is the detailed design, documentation and construction which is carried out by others. These ‘others’ which are outside the fire sector are generally not trained in fire safety and this can lead to poor design and construction outcomes. To be able to guide other professionals in the elements of fire safety that they are involved in, we need to be well trained ourselves. Our webinars have been the big focus on training over the past two years. The webinar format allows us to deliver the same training throughout the country and then put them on our website for later viewing. Generally, we have had up to 70 attendees at each webinar which is a sign of their success.

Now that the webinars are running successfully, we have identified that there is still a learning gap between what is learnt from a post graduate fire qualification and what is necessary to practice successfully as a fire engineer. Tony Parkes has been instrumental in putting together a framework of topics that can be covered in 1 or 2 day sessions. This is significant body of work which will be fleshed out over the next few years.

The executive and regional representatives have put in a lot of work over the last year on behalf of the membership for the betterment of fire safety outcomes in buildings for all New Zealanders. In recognition of their achievements SFPE International have awarded the Chapter silver medal status.

I have immensely enjoyed the role of President over the last two years and being able to engage with many people about the problems and opportunities facing our profession and the construction industry. As I move to the Immediate Past President I wish all the best for the incoming President Daryn Glasgow and the new executive team.

Outline of Activities
Below is a general summary of the activities we have been involved in and who led them.

Training and education

  • Webinars – Technical support Greg North. All the exec have been involved in sourcing the webinars.
  • FireNZ conference organisation – Michael James and Jeff Parkinson.
  • 13th International performance based codes and fire safety design methods conference organisation – Martin Feeney Co-chair
  • Short course training – Tony Parkes.

Guidance and documentation

  • Construction monitoring guidance – Greg North, Darin Millar, Geoff Merryweather, Robert Peart and Michael James
  • Body of Knowledge (BoK) and occupational licensing – Geoff Merryweather, Michael James.
  • NZS 4541 Standard update – Robert Peart.
  • FPA Building Services fire safety interfaces code of practice – Robert Peart.


  • FPA Passive fire special interest group – Greg North
  • NZS 4512 Interpretations committee – John Davidson.
  • FPA Council meetings – Michael James
  • Building code technical risk advisory group (BCTRAG) – Michael James
  • Design coordination with EngNZ and NZIA – Daryn Glasgow, Keryn Goble and Michael James.
  • Engineering NZ Technical Challenge Group – Michael James
  • Promoting Careers in fire engineering and supporting emerging professionals
  • High school Careers conference and expo – Daryn Glasgow, Keryn Goble, Michael James
  • Auckland University Careers evening – Keryn Goble, Michael James
  • Massey University Careers evening – Keryn Goble, Michael James.
  • Waikato university careers presentation – Grace Nichols and Nick Saunders
  • Emerging professionals committee – Raymond Qui (Chair), Priya Parag, Mona Liu, Jonathon Beardmore, Peter Marriott, Grace Nichols
  • Mentoring program – Raymond Qui.