The Victorian Government’s proposed restructure of the iconic Country Fire Authority must ensure rural volunteer firefighters aren’t marginalised, a State Parliamentary inquiry heard.
The Victorian Farmers Federation told the Fire Services Bill Select Committee that the CFA needed to keep full contract of resources needed for volunteer firefighters under any new structure.
“The Government needs to ensure that career firefighters engage well with volunteers and the CFA gets the final say on who is appointed to oversee operations of the volunteer service,” VFF President David Jochinke said.
“Volunteer firefighters deserve respect and should be given the equipment and training they need, not the resources that headquarters thinks is appropriate.”
Mr Jochinke said it was vital for volunteer training to remain equal to the training being offered to career firefighters under the new Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) model.
“We need the confidence that any changes to the CFA will not strip funding or status away from our volunteer services,” he said.
The VFF, in its submission to the Inquiry, said farmers were concerned the new structure would leave a weaker volunteer service which would be funded by a rise in the Fire Services Property Levy.
Mr Jochinke said the farmer group would make a strong case to government that farmers needed the same or better services at the same or better price.
“We need to ensure that costs do not blow out for farmers and they end up shouldering the costs of a community good for Victoria,” he said.
“The amount we pay in the FSPL needs to recognise the value the CFA contributes to private and public land.”
Mr Jochinke said the VFF would continue to engage with its members about proposed changes to CFA operations.