Fire vollies bid angers Shire boss

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Shire president Ian Earl has blasted Rosa Brook volunteers for seeking transfer to Department of Fire and Emergency Services control.

The matter came to a head at Wednesday night’s council meeting when Rosa Brook Volunteer Bushfire Brigade captain Richard Moroney won the support of five councillors to initiate the move.

Cr Earl said he was “extremely disappointed this has come up”.

Wallcliffe brigade won the right late last year to investigate talks with DFES commissioner Darren Klemm. But the Shire president warned Rosa Brook’s shift to DFES would remove another brigade from the oversight of Shire of Augusta-Margaret River bushfire chiefs and not result in a “better deal”.

“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction from other brigades that Rosa Brook went for this at this time,” Cr Earl said. “There is no special deal for either of those brigades.”

“It muddies the water at the moment.”

Captain Moroney told councillors the change would cement existing practices. “We undertake training with DFES, are deployed with DFES, manage our brigade with DFES systems and within DFES operating guidelines, and for the majority of the time are directed under the leadership of DFES on a fire ground,” he said.

“The shift to DFES management is not a brave new frontier or leap into the unknown.”

Wallcliffe Volunteer Bushfire Brigade was already discussing its transfer with DFES, which could not be considered until the end of the bushfire season.

It asked for the change to simplify administration duties in members’ capacity as firefighters and road-crash first responders.

Cr Paula Cristoffanini lost a bid to defer the item, and only Cr Earl and colleague Kylie Kennaugh voted against the proposed talks.

Any shift would require future council approval.

Cr Julia Meldrum moved the motion to start talks and said and unanimous vote would show “we are listening to the volunteers”.

“They are the ones who want to make the move,” she said. “I don’t feel our community will be any less safe.”

Deputy Shire president Pauline McLeod agreed and said last year’s brigade vote — in which seven of 10 brigades proposed to move across, falling short of the eight votes needed — was “a strong majority”.

“They put their lives on the line for us and they are asking for this,” Cr McLeod said.

Captain Moroney noted councillors voted against the wholesale transfer last year despite the seven out of 10 votes.

“Through the power of democracy, the council said ‘no’,” he said.

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