Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (16:11): (379) My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Water, and the action I seek from the minister is to intervene with Gippsland Water and
reinstate 20 contracts that are CFA-based brigade contracts that Gippsland Water cancelled only recently. These contracts are for fire equipment maintenance.
Gippsland Water has terminated long-term contracts that it had engaged in with 20 of our CFA brigades in my Eastern Victoria electorate. The CFA volunteers received information via a letter to
say that their long-term contracts were cancelled. This blindsided our very good volunteers, who have been in place for 17 years in some cases, and it was effective basically at the end of July. What we cannot understand is that these are volunteer organisations whose sole purpose in raising those funds is to put them back into their own brigades to buy specialised equipment, breathing equipment and extra equipment for supporting their endeavours to serve and to save life and property in our communities.
I understand that Gippsland Water is now walking backwards and saying that they are now working with the CFA and that there will be ongoing collaboration. It is quite disappointing that unfortunately it has to get to this point where an MP, me, jumps up and down and runs media on this and asks for this in the house in order for Gippsland Water to then be cajoled – I will put that politely – into having these discussions. It should not have had to happen in the first place. If there were any issues to do with any of the contracts, a contract is between two parties – they should have gone straight to the other party and decided the best way forward.
Can I commend all of our CFA for the work they do in fire equipment maintenance. In this Gippsland area with Gippsland Water in the past 15 years they have raised over $105,000 through those contracts to really support their community and support their equipment. These are volunteers, but they are highly trained, and the contracts that they have had with Gippsland Water have been official, they have had insurance and they have been highly regulated. So as I say, it is highly disappointing that it has come to this. I will be very pleased if there is a positive outcome, and I call on the Minister for Water to intervene where necessary and see that these contracts are returned for another 17 years.