Civil Defence’s Next Generation Steps Up

Clad in crisp, navy-blue uniforms, a group of 16 teenagers gather to train each week on the outskirts of Rangiora. They practice fire-fighting, applying first-aid and using radios and could very well be Waimakariri’s future first responders.

The Waimakariri Civil Defence Emergency Management Cadet Unit recently visited the Fire and Emergency NZ Rangiora Station.

These youth are the first intake of Waimakariri's Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Cadet Unit; the first of its kind in the country. The programme provides practical training in Civil Defence and Emergency Management for young people aged 12-17 and for many, provides a taste of a potential future career in the emergency services.

“My dad’s a volunteer firefighter, so it’s kind of in my blood, said 12 year old Cadet Section Leader, Riley Helps

“I’m hoping it (the cadets) will lead me in to adult volunteering.”

The Cadet programme is a joint initiative between Waimakariri District Council’s Civil Defence Emergency Management and Youth Development teams and inspired by similar youth organisations such as Air Training Corps and the St Johns Cadets.

“You see a huge amount of personal growth in the cadets through the year” says the Council’s Youth Development Facilitator, Sam Redman.

Cadet Section Leaders: Annika Ettema (13) and Riley Helps (12).

“They develop their knowledge of emergency management, but also come away with increased self-confidence and life skills.”

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to extend my social circles”, says 13 year old Cadet Annika Ettema, who has recently been promoted to the leader of Section Two.

“I’ve become a little bit more confident with other people, coming into this group has made it easier to go into high school with a ton of other people.”

Highlights have included visits to local Fire Brigades, Airport Customs, Coastguard and the weekend camps in Glentui. The Cadets learn emergency service skills, earn NZQA credits for Civil Defence and find opportunities to volunteer in their local community. Once the cadets reach their 18th birthday, they’ll have the opportunity to apply for the adult Civil Defence units.

The Cadets train weekly and often visit local emergency services.

While developing the programme, organisers initially sought funding for 10 applicants, however the level of interest shown by local youth has exceeded their expectations.

“We were blown away by the calibre and enthusiasm of the young people we interviewed,” said Chris Field, Emergency Management Officer for the Council. “Fortunately, we managed to secure additional funding which meant we didn’t have to turn anyone away.”

The next intake will be open for applications in February 2021 and Annika says she would definitely recommend the programme to others,

“I think Cadets is a good opportunity, there’s lots of variety and the people are pretty cool.”

Find out more about the CDEM Cadet Unit on the Council website.