VOLUNTEER firefighters in northern and central Victoria say they are disappointed at the lack of government consultation on changes to the state's fire services.
Last week, the Country Fire Authority's career staff merged with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to form a new fire service called Fire Rescue Victoria.
Echuca firefighter Paul Nicoll, who is on the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria District 20 Council, said there were still unanswered questions about how the changes would affect CFA volunteers.
"There has been absolutely no consultation with brigades in District 20," he said.
"Members have asked very relevant questions about how they are going to operate and what the future holds for them only to be told we don't know, we can't tell you."
The District 20 Council represents 61 volunteer brigades across the Gannawarra, Campaspe, and Loddon Shires.
VFBV District 20 councillor Jim Parson said while the district did not have any FRV stations, the volunteers were still worried.
"The main concern we have is around funding," he said. "FRV have the ability to alter the funding that CFA get.
"In the near future, it doesn't look like anything will change with funding. But in the long-term, there are still some uncertainties."
Mr Parsons, who is also a Leitchville Brigade Second Lieutenant, said funding changes could impact communities.
"It could affect the volunteer's firefighting capabilities in regards to updating equipment and stations," he said. "That's the biggest worry."
Mr Nicoll said there were also concerns about how a drop in morale and duties would impact volunteer numbers.
"Brigades in District 20 have come together and said we would always service our areas no matter what happens," he said. "But this change has been very difficult and crushing to members."
Mr Nicoll said the government had broken a number of promises already.
He said FRV staff seconded to the CFA should be wearing current CFA uniform, although that wasn't the case.
Mr Nicoll said CFA Volunteers were also told the CFA Chief Officer would have the final say on whether to accept or reject an FRV member proposed for secondment to the CFA, but that too hasn't happened.
Elmore Brigade Lieutenant Frank Tobin, who is also the Deputy Group Officer of the Whipstick Group, said one of his greatest concerns was brigade boundaries.
"There was an agreement that there would be a rigorous process to make sure that before any reviews of boundaries were undertaken, the brigade involved would be consulted," Mr Tobin said. "That already hasn't happened in Gippsland."
VFBV board member and Castlemaine volunteer Bill Maltby said while CFA volunteers always worked well with, and respected, the paid firefighters, the new service could undermine that trust.
"The CFA was one of the most respected fire services in the world," he said. "It wasn't broken, it just might have needed some tweaking.
"But this new organisation has undermined that. Many people will say I don't need to volunteer if there are permanent staff.
"That said, every volunteer firefighter I know will do the job they enrolled to do."
A Victorian government spokesperson said the government was committed to supporting volunteer firefighters.
"We've backed that in with a $126 million dollar investment for the CFA to go towards critical training and equipment," the spokesperson said.
"We will continue to invest in our volunteers to ensure the CFA has the funding necessary to remain a strong and sustainable agency."
The spokesperson said the government also carried out 54 engagement workshops with more than 1330 volunteers in February and March.
"For the majority of volunteers nothing will change under Fire Rescue Victoria," they said.
"As a strengthened volunteer firefighting CFA, they'll continue to provide a valuable service to their communities, including vital day-to-day support as well as surge capacity for campaign or other major fire events."
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