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Q & A update - boundaries, command and control
Having the technology to deliver regular online updates is one thing, but it's the quality of the interaction that will determine whether this blog is a success. So far, I've seen a wealth of considered opinions, well thought out comments and probing questions in response to my posts. So I'd say you're certainly keeping up your end of the bargain, and I'll continue doing my best to keep up mine.
I'm using this entry to answer some of the questions you've raised on my previous posts about boundary realignment and command and control changes. I've lifted the questions out of the comments you've posted and answered them below. I haven't been able to get to all of them but I hope this is a representative sample of the issues most concerning you about the changes.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q. Would it not have been wiser to start with establishing sensible boundaries for the organisations that do have to deal with the 'hard' stuff of hills, rivers, roads and nature, then make DHS (Department of Human Services) and the other 'soft' organisations conform to that?
A. This is a good question that naturally has a strong CFA focus. At the end of the day, though, because we are not an isolated organisation and we work alongside many government agencies, our approach has to be about what's best for the whole state.
Because of this whole-of-state focus, the CFA Board supports the State Government's decision to align all government departments and services into eight regions, which are based around the local government areas. This gives us the ability to work both locally and at state level with a consistent approach to regional issues.
In terms of timing, the new regional boundaries have been, or will soon be, adopted by our key partners including the Department of Justice, Victoria Police, Victoria State Emergency Service and the Department of Human Services.
Q. Is this another knee-jerk reaction to appease State Government?
A. I don't like knee-jerk reactions and CFA's purpose is not to appease State Government; it's to create safer communities. So I can confidently say the answer to this question is a 'no'.
Again, the boundary realignment project is about creating cohesion and consistency across the state. We'll do this by making sure we're all 'on the same page', which includes operating within the same boundaries across all government departments. This will make for better planning which, ultimately, delivers better services to the community.
These goals are outlined in the Government's "A Fairer Victoria" policy and are strongly supported by the CFA Board.
Q. Does the change to boundaries affect assignment areas?
A. Yes, some brigades will see changes to their assignment areas. Some of our affected brigades are ready to move to the new areas so we're already supporting them to make it a smooth changeover. Other affected brigades are not yet ready, but we're also giving them the support they need to bring them to the point where they're comfortable to make the switch. There are also many brigades that won't be affected at all.
Also, the boundary changes will affect us administratively because we're going to move from nine Areas to eight, and the regions within those areas will be renamed 'Districts'.
Q. My brigade covers an area of approximately 30,000 hectares, with half in one municipality and half in another. One of these municipalities is in the North Western Region and one in the North Eastern Region. Our members would like to know what will happen to our brigade and our assignment area with a realignment.
A. Hopefully, the answer to the question above sheds some light on what will happen to your brigade. Without knowing the full details, it sounds like there could be some changes to your brigade's assignment area and the specifics of these changes will be talked through with your brigade at a local level.
Whether your brigade is ready now, or further down the track, we'll be providing all the support you need to both keep your members informed and ensure they're comfortable to move when the time comes.
Q. Will brigades and Groups changing regions be disadvantaged in terms of their current situation with regional support and funds allocation?
A. Another good question that I'm sure many brigades are asking. The short answer is that you won't be disadvantaged.
As much as this project is about change, it's also about making sure brigades don't 'lose out' in any way. So while you might get some changes to your region, you won't be starting with a 'clean slate'. It's more like changing class at the same school than it is transferring to a new school altogether. All your brigade's records and history will still be used to work out future support and funding needs.
Q. Do you want brigades to realign their boundaries in line with the shires, and when?
A. First up, we're concentrating on realigning our Regions (which will be renamed Districts) with the municipal boundaries. That'll happen by 1 July 2010.
Any changes to Group and brigade boundaries will happen after 1 July 2010. This will give us the chance to make sure our planning and consultation with members is up to speed before those changes happen.
Q. What effect will it have on operations on the ground?
A. In short, very little. The boundary realignment is more about administrative and planning change than it is operational. That's not to say operational response areas won't be affected at all, but they're being reviewed separately to the boundary changes.
We're looking at operational areas with local teams and will keep you posted on the results. For now, though, the primary focus will stay on admin and planning.