Emergency services minister visits Shepparton in light of changes to CFA

By Geoff Adams

CFA volunteers will continue to be welcome at stations such as Shepparton, Victorian Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said in Shepparton yesterday.

Speculation has been rife that under Victorian Government changes to be introduced to fire services that volunteers will be pushed out.

The government is pushing a bill through parliament that would create Fire Services Victoria, replacing the CFA in larger country stations, such as Shepparton.

Ms Neville visited the Shepparton Fire Station yesterday to re-assure volunteers they could continue to serve the community.

‘‘We are absolutely committed to keeping integrated stations,’’ Ms Neville said.

‘‘I want our CFA volunteers to stay and keep working side by side with career firefighters as they do now.’’

And she said communities would continue to see volunteer firefighters turning out to fires along with paid firefighters.

She said under the new bill, the integrated stations must recognise the important role volunteers played and they must be called out to fires.

‘‘So if there is a need for fire suppression, then volunteers must be called out as well,’’ Ms Neville said.

The legislation, if passed, would abolish the MFB and career CFA services and establish Fire Rescue Victoria to serve metropolitan Melbourne, the outer urban fringe and large regional centres.

The new model is expected to come into effect by mid-next year.

Ms Neville also toured the Goulburn River, where there have been growing concerns about how the high level of water was affecting the river.

City of Greater Shepparton councillor Dennis Patterson and fishing enthusiast Steve Threlfall were among those who joined Ms Neville on a 30-minute boat ride along the river.

The river has been running unseasonably high throughout summer as a result of downstream demand and Ms Neville said it was clear to see the effect the high water levels have had on the river.