Tuesday, 02 June 2020


Three Collier family members in the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade

By Suzanne Hansen

Being a fire and emergency volunteer is obviously in the DNA of Whitianga Sports' Collier family, because for the first time in the history of the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade, there are three Collier family members serving as volunteers at the same time. 

Derek Collier joined the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade back in 1987, when a friend of his grandfather’s thought that the brigade needed some new blood. Derek’s grandfather was Douglas Butcher, who was at one time the Chief Fire Officer of the Stratford Fire Brigade and later the President of the United Fire Brigades Association of New Zealand.

Derek was immediately drawn to the warm comradery of the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade that operates in his words as “one big family.” Over his time with the brigade, Derek has held various leadership positions including Station Officer from 1993 and Senior Station officer from 2004. As of Wednesday 30 May, Derek has been promoted to Deputy Chief Fire.

Derek is now proudly serving in the brigade with two of his five children - his sons Paul (35) and Adam (30). The three Collier men share the same passion for the brigade and for the Whitianga community and all three are excited and proud to be working together. 

Paul Collier who works in window treatments and as a tattoo artist, joined his father in the brigade three years ago when he returned home after several years on Auckland’s North Shore. He wanted to give back to the community and it felt right joining an organisation that had been such a positive part of his life growing up.

Three months ago, Paul talked younger brother Adam into joining the brigade too.  Adam, who works in roofing and has a passion for tourism, outdoor education and brewing craft beers has just returned to Whitianga in December. He has spent seven years working in tourism in the Milford Sound before travelling through Asia and North America. Adam was looking to “put down some roots” in Whitianga. He is now going through his initial training as a firefighter, coordinated coincidentally by his father Derek, and will soon be off to Rotorua to complete his national training.   

When asked what it is like to work with their dad, both Paul and Adam were brimming with pride in their father who “leads by example” and who’s leadership style is one of guidance rather than direction. They call him “stern but fair” and they also mention that their teenage years spent working in the family business seasoned them to Derek’s leadership style. They specifically point out Derek’s zest for continuous learning, growth and extracting the most out of his time with the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade.

Derek, for his part, is getting used to the novelty of having a second son in the organisation, but he treats both boys like all the other firefighters, especially when there is work to be done. It is nice for them, however, to be able to spend time as a family comparing notes and experiences and Derek is personally bursting with pride to have his sons working with him.

After 31 years in the brigade, Derek is as enthusiastic as ever and looking forward to his new leadership role. He still gets that little surge of adrenalin each time the fire siren goes off and having his sons as part of the organisation makes it even more rewarding.   Perhaps Derek can recruit his other three children as well...


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