THE state government has rejected claims it is not renewing trucks in the Country Fire Authority fleet.
State emergency services and bushfire response minister Kim Wells said $14.7 million had been budgeted for 35 new CFA vehicles in 2013-14.
“In addition, under our government we have been able to extend the three-year crew protection retrofit program, as it was delivered before time and under budget,” Mr Wells said.
“This has meant that the total number of trucks being retrofitted under this program has increased from 844 to 1048 and this program is planned to be completed by the end of June this year.”
The minister was responding to statements by the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) that CFA trucks in the south-west were up to 25 years old and without the latest safety and firefighting capabilities.
Owen O’Keefe, a member of the Winslow CFA brigade and a VFBV state council member, said state government funding cuts had meant the CFA fleet had become one of the oldest in Australia.
However, Mr Wells disputed the VFBV’s claims, saying the $14.7 million allocation this financial year for 35 new vehicles came on top of $12.3 million the government provided in 2012-13 for 61 new vehicles.
“The CFA also contributed a further $14.3 million from its annual budget for this initiative,” Mr Wells said.
The government also provided $23.8 million additional funding in 2011-12 for a further 101 new vehicles, he said.
But Mr Wells’ response did not persuade the VFBV to shift from its claims.
The organisation said the increasing age of the CFA fleet had occurred over the last 15 years, not just the past few.
VFBV chief executive Andrew Ford said the problem had been carried through successive state governments and “volunteers are calling on all of the major parties to commit to a solution”.
“Funding to CFA for its emergency vehicle fleet has been done year by year and the funding has not been enough,” Mr Ford said.
“That deprives CFA and the brigades of capacity to plan ahead for community needs.
“It leaves the Victorian vehicle building industry without the security to commit to new equipment and local jobs, and it leaves volunteer brigades using trucks that don’t have modern firefighting and crew safety features.”