State slashes CFA budget

FIREFIGHTING resources in central Victoria will be squeezed and frontline jobs could be scrapped as the fire season looms, the firefighters union says.

The state government yesterday confirmed the Country Fire Authority would lose $41 million from its budget in the first year of cost-cutting measures, with more cuts to follow.

United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said the cut would affect regional stations’ ability to meet demand.

Mr Marshall accused the government of ignoring calls from the Bushfire Royal Commission for an extra 600 firefighters over the next five years. 

“It’s a potentially disastrous public policy. CFA have cancelled a recruit course and there’s senior operational forces that have already been cut,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Emergency Services Peter Ryan accused the union of “reckless scare mongering”.

“The Coalition government is investing significant funding into bolstering Victoria’s frontline emergency services and ensuring agencies run efficiently and effectively. The government is implementing the Royal Commission recommendations to ensure that Victoria is better prepared to respond to bushfires.”

In Bendigo yesterday, Greens MP Colleen Hartland said the removal of funding could spell “a total disaster” in the looming fire season.

“The Black Saturday fires came within 2km of Bendigo CBD. With $41 million cut to CFA staff and training and more to follow, can the government guarantee the safety of residents?

“We’re still not sure which jobs are going to be lost, which is concerning for all firefighters.”

Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said the budget cuts throw into doubt planned CFA projects, including the building of new fire stations at Kangaroo Flat and Golden Square. 

“It’s important that the two new stations committed to will still go ahead. The residents of Kangaroo Flat and Golden Square should not be disadvantaged as a result.”

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