The AVBFB has congratulated Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan for bringing together more than 60 stakeholders to discuss various aspects of the important issue of mitigation at today’s summit in Mandurah.
AVBFB President Dave Gossage said the day was productive and useful in the process of repairing many of the important relationships that have been severely damaged during the term of the last government.
“We have a long way to go, but today’s summit was definitely a step in the right direction,” Mr Gossage said.
“The Minister made it very clear at the outset that he was new in the role and willing to listen and learn – which we are very pleased to say is exactly what he appeared to do.”
Mr Gossage said representatives from parliament, other emergency services, unions, farmers and industry were divided among 9 tables that individually workshopped each agenda item and then reported back to the whole room.
He also said the association was pleased with the outcome of the most controversial discussion topic of the day – that of Premier McGowan’s pre-election promise to create a Rural Fire Service.
“It was great to hear that the overwhelming majority of tables understood the vastly different cultures and skill sets between the volunteer bush fire service and the urban fire & rescue employees.”
“While there was some division between whether or not the Rural Fire Service should be fully independent or a department of DFES, there is no question the vast majority agreed that a Rural Fire Service is the only way forward.”
“Everyone understands the difficult financial position the government has inherited. However, many of today’s contributors were confident we could find a way to honour the commitment and create a much-needed specialist Rural Fire Service without a great impost on the state’s recovering economy.”
“For example, we agree with the United Fire Fighters union that the most efficient way to get the resources to the ‘coalface’ is to strengthen existing resources – like the 580 volunteer bush fire brigades that already exist in WA.”
Mr Gossage thanked the Minister and his staff for the summit and said he looks forward to the next opportunity the AVBFB has to work with government toward delivering its election commitment as soon as practically possible.
“What I saw today was that with open discussion and a bit of good will, stakeholders who have been pitted against each other in the past can work productively toward a better and safer future for all West Australians, especially the amazing volunteers of the Volunteer Bush Fire Service,” Mr Gossage said.