Bringing joy to his community

Gary Rennie, Community Risk Advocate for AMI, drives a bright yellow smile-maker – AMIEE the 1955 fire truck.

I first heard about AMIEE, the fire truck, when I started with AMI, which was about six years ago. I'd come on board as a Business Development Manager, and part of my role was to connect with the community. I’d seen pictures of AMIEE and I was like, "Gee, how do I get hold of this thing?"

Ami bus

John McSweeney had been the custodian for AMIEE for 15, 20 years. She had been on hiatus, understandably, after the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes and she was in a storage shed out at Woolston. My first impression of her was when John opened the big roller door, and there she was in all her glory, and it was fantastic – a bright yellow fire truck with a big smile beaming at me, and I'm like, "Baby, you need to come out. We need to get you out into the community."

AMIEE's been in Christmas parades, we've taken her on school trips, I take her to safety events like AMI Driver Reviver. Fatigue’s still a big reason for a lot of road accidents, and unfortunately, fatalities. At AMI Driver Reviver we do a complimentary barbecue, snacks and drinks for drivers to recharge. We want you to take 10 minutes, feel refreshed, then get home safely.

boy smiling

AMIEE has her quirks

She's a 1955 fire truck, she’s still got her original parts and she comes with a few quirks. She doesn't always like starting, and the big thing you do with AMIEE is just talk nicely to her. Don't get upset – and allow time before an event.

One of my first events with AMIEE was a community day in Ashburton. They were closing the road off, and I had to be down there by half past eight, otherwise I couldn't get in. We'd had a frost that morning, so it was quite cold, and AMIEE wouldn't start, bless her heart.

I had to get the crank out, and half an hour I was on that crank, and I was just about to do one more turn and say, "This isn't gonna happen," and she finally spluttered into life, good on her. But I had blisters - pretty good blisters. I jumped in the truck, and I thought, "We gotta go. You know, we're not gonna stop."

Five kilometres out from Ashburton, splutter, splutter, we ran out of fuel. I had to get out and put a little jerry can of fuel in, and I arrived in Ashburton on fumes, basically. I got in just before the full road closure.

gary and friends

People love to see AMIEE out and about

To get her to that event and to see the smiles on peoples' faces was well worth it – the number of people that wave and the big smiles you see as people pass you in their cars. Road workers will always give you a big wave. She's got an air horn, so I blow the horn.

Kids absolutely love her. They can climb inside, put the fireman hat on and jump on the back. For Canterbury, it's been a great thing because they've been through a few challenges over the last decade and wherever we've taken AMIEE, that's brought smiles and delight. And a lot of parents have said, "Gee, I just needed this, and my kids needed this, so thank you."

That gives you the warm fuzzies, and it gives me the motivation to do it again and again. It's great. I love attending events with AMIEE because of the joy we give to the community, so I don't wanna give that up. It’s a real privilege to be able to do this.