State Government statutory body, Gippsland Water has torn up long term contracts with 20 Gippsland CFA stations, leaving the volunteer brigades without a vital revenue stream to purchase new equipment.
Under the fire equipment maintenance scheme, CFA volunteers have been servicing fire extinguishers, hose reels and fire blankets across multiple Gippsland Water’s sites, including the Moondarra Reservoir for a nominal fee.
Gippsland Water recently cancelled the contracts that have been in place for 17 years without warning effective 28 July 2023.
The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath said Gippsland’s CFA brigades were blindsided by Gippsland Water’s decision to cancel their service contracts.
“Volunteers brigades only learned about it via a letter which stated an audit had been conducted and the water authority was cancelling its arrangement.
“Gippsland Water’s decision is shortsighted and counterproductive – it eliminates a vital revenue source from a volunteer service that protects life and property in times of emergencies.
“Without the CFA’s surge workforce capacity and equipment, Gippsland Water’s assets and our community would be in a highly vulnerable position in a bushfire event.
“Volunteer CFA brigades are in a financial battle to survive – funding has been cut in the state budget and now government agencies are removing their income source.
“The funding generated through these service contracts enables CFA volunteers’ to keep turning out to floods, fires, vehicle crashes and lost bush users.”
The Gippsland Water CFA contract cancellation comes after Melbourne Water made the same decision 12 months ago before backflipping when Ms Bath called the matter out in State Parliament.
Ms Bath said the Andrews Government has a track history in cancelling local contracts from local organisations in regional communities, which flies in the face of its own ‘Local Jobs First procurement policy.
“Gippsland Water is showing complete disregard for our local volunteer emergency services by cancelling contracts with little or no communication or a right of reply.
“Centralising government contracts is a cost saving exercise that lacks social licence – it does not pass the pub test.
“First it was CFA uniform laundering, then it was Ambulance Victoria uniform laundering and now it’s the servicing of portable fire equipment for state government water authorities.”
Ms Bath said she will be raising the matter in State Parliament next week, advocating on behalf of these CFA volunteer brigades and seeking a reversal of Gippsland Water’s decision.
“The Minister for Water must speak with Gippsland Water and ensure the contracts are redirected back to our local CFA brigades as a matter of priority.”
Media Contact – Jenni Rohde 0437750806