There will be no forced closures of rural fire brigades in Tasmania but Labor still holds fears about the future of some brigades.
Premier Peter Gutwein gave the assurance after Minister Mark Shelton appeared to leave the door open about their future in an answer to a question in State Parliament.
“They are an important part of the community fabric here in Tasmania and we won’t be forcing any of them to close,” Mr Gutwein said.
IN OTHER NEWS:
However, Labor Lyons member Jen Butler said the government’s failure to support an amendment to a government motion on firefighting services had her worried.
“The government’s failure to support the amendment demonstrates that it is pursuing a secret agenda to close volunteer fire brigades,” Ms Butler said.
During Question Time, Ms Butler said there had been rumours for several months in regional communities that the government planned to close up to 20 volunteer fire brigades.
“Can you provide assurances that there will be no closure or forced amalgamation of volunteer fire brigades across the state?” she asked.
In response, Mr Shelton said there was a review of the State Fire Act currently underway by former Auditor-General Mike Blake and he would not speculate on the outcome.
“I will take advice when Mike Blake comes back. I am not going to tell Mike Blake what he should be telling me so I will listen to his advice,” Mr Shelton said.
However, less than an hour later he issued a media release accusing Labor of scare-mongering.
“There will be no forced closures of rural fire brigades in Tasmania now or into the future,” Mr Shelton said.
“Labor should be ashamed of themselves for repeating baseless rumours.”
Ms Butler said the government was providing no certainty to Tasmania’s 5,000 volunteer firefighters.
“These firefighters are our most valuable weapon in keeping communities safe,” she said.
Tasmanian Volunteer Fire Brigades Association state president Rob Atkins said he was confident there would be no forced closures.
“Some brigades have closed because they only had one or two members,” Mr Atkins said.
“Some people are worried needlessly and just being stirrers.”