NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) commissioner Phil Koperberg will be asked to explain his resistance to a new volunteer representative body when he meets members of the organisation in Dubbo this weekend.
Commissioner Koperberg convened the forum for western region RFS volunteers as part of a Statewide consultation process.
Advertisements placed in regional newspapers this week stated the forum was, “an opportunity for local volunteers to actively participate in discussion related to RFS activities”.
Members of the Volunteer Fire Fighting Association (VFFA), a breakaway
volunteer representative group established in October last year, are keen to
speak to Mr Koperberg in Dubbo.
VFFA president and Parkes RFS group captain
Peter Cannon said his members were not looking for a fight.
“We just want the
commissioner to accept and recognise our organisation,” he told the Daily Liberal yesterday.
Mr Cannon said the aim of the new association was to provide volunteer firefighters with independent representation.
“Our members need an independent voice,” he said.
“The current organisation, the Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA), is not a true representative body for the volunteers because half of its members are salaried RFS staff.
“We, the VFFA, are here to represent the 69,000 volunteer firefighters who selflessly give their time each year to save lives, the environment and property.”
At the time of forming the VFFA, RFSA president Steve York, a salaried officer, accused Mr Cannon and his breakaway group of causing division in the service.
“I question the value of establishing a factional group,” he said.
“The RFSA has even numbers of volunteers and salaried staff on the committee to provide balanced representation for all the members.
“Mr Cannon should have come to us first – what he’s done will cause division.”
Mr Cannon said his
colleagues were no longer
prepared to take lip service from the RFSA, which he
said was ruled by the bureaucracy.
“A lot of our members have been afraid to voice their
concerns in the past for fear of retribution from above,” he said.
The RFS Region West forum is scheduled for 1pm on Saturday at the Dubbo Civic Centre.
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