As part of the modernisation process of the New Zealand Fire Service, the New Zealand Fire Service Commission determined that the Fire Service should have a greater investment in research and in particular should set up a Contestable Research Fund of $500,000 in the first instance (the fund was subsequently raised to $550,00). The stated purpose of the Contestable Research Fund was to advance knowledge in fire prevention and fire management in New Zealand in order to meet the Commission's statutory interest as laid out in the Fire Service Act 1975 (Part II).
At its July 1998 meeting the New Zealand Fire Service Commission agreed to establish the fund. A Research Advisory Group was formed to administer the fund, the constitution of that group being agreed by the Commission at their August 1998 meeting.
Dr Paula Beever, (Chair) National Director Fire Risk Management, New Zealand Fire Service. Paula Beever has worked for over 20 years in fire research and fire safety design. She joined the New Zealand Fire Service in September 1999 having come from the position of Associate Professor in Environmental Safety and Risk Engineering at Victoria University in Melbourne. There she spent 3 years teaching fire safety engineering, as well as conducting and supervising research and assessing research proposals. Prior to that she spent 8 years as a fire safety consultant, being a Director of Ove Arup and Partners, one of the worlds largest engineering consultancies. The first 10 years of her career were spent in industrial fire research at the Fire Research Station in the UK.
Dr Jenny Neale, Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington. As well as her role as Associate Dean of Research, Jenny Neale is Director of the M.A. (Applied) in Social Science Research programme. She has an extensive background in research on social issues. She has worked as a primary school teacher, taught English as a second language and was a research consultant before taking up her academic position. Her qualifications are in education, educational psychology and women's studies. She is a referee for the Foundation for Research Science and Technology and has had over twenty years research experience.
The remainder of the Group comprises the National Rural Fire Officer and the National Community Safety Group Principal Risk & Project Advisor.