Stoush over blue water volunteer rescue review erupts

POLITICAL TENSIONS: Spat over release of blue water volunteer rescue services review erupts.
POLITICAL TENSIONS: Spat over release of blue water volunteer rescue services review erupts.

THE state Opposition has accused the Palaszczuk government of tardiness for delaying the release of a review into VMR and Coast Guard over Christmas.

However, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services have hit back saying two cyclones on the back of unprecedented bushfires meant they were too flat strapped at the time to release the report immediately.

Liberal National Party Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Lachlan Millar said the review showed tough decisions needed to be made about the future of Volunteer Marine Rescue and Coast Guard.

He said the state government showed they were indecisive by delaying the report’s release and forming a panel to review the review.

“There are serious questions surrounding funding and the viability of some of our marine rescue operations right up and down the coast. 

“They need answers immediately.

“To only now be considering reviewing the review is completely unacceptable.”

The assessment of Volunteer Marine Rescue and Coast Guard services was done by retired Royal Australian Navy Commodore Campbell Darby.

QFES had commissioned Mr Darby last year to assess both organisations’ service delivery ahead of the expiration of funding agreements for both at the end of June. 

The report was released last month after it was received by QFES in early December.

A QFES spokesperson hit back at claims made by the Opposition, saying the operational responses required across the state in December warranted the report’s late release.

“The QFES Commissioner had received the report in early December, which coincided with unprecedented fire conditions in Queensland followed by severe Tropical Cyclone Owen and Tropical Cyclone Penny,” the spokesperson said.

“QFES’ focus during this period was its operational response to protect Queensland communities.

“The QFES Commissioner wrote to both associations on December 11, 2018 informing them that the release of the report would be delayed due to significant operational demands.”

The spokesperson said volunteers had not been kept in the dark.

Both VMR and Coast Guard were asked earlier this month to nominate representatives from their state executive to join a working group to review Mr Darby’s recommendations.

Two rank and file volunteers from each organisations were also invited.

Oodgeroo MP Mark Robinson said the state government needed to ensure decisions regarding marine rescue services were made promptly and delivered.

He cited delays in the extension of Cleveland’s William Street breakwater, needed to protect pontoons, including one used by VMR for medivacs, from rough waters during northerly winds. 

“Labor has form with indecision with the delay in construction of the Cleveland William Street breakwater, which has jeopardised public safety and cost taxpayers in pontoon repairs,” he said.