Road to reform

When former Police Minister Paul Holloway released his review of the Fire and Emergency Services Act last year he said emergency services in SA were at a cross road.
The MFS, CFS and SES were doing their jobs and doing them well at the grassroots level.
However, he found the board-style corporate structure too top heavy and the sector needed one chief executive to take charge and to streamline administration through one department.
Emergency Services Minister Tony Piccolo is now on a mission to make that happen.
How he gets there could well be a turning point for the CFS and how the volunteer organisation weathers the future.
It could also be a career defining moment for Mr Piccolo who has a perfect opportunity to display his negotiation and leadership skills.
It seems no-one in the CFS has a problem with slashing a top heavy administration or trying to stop duplication of services or making the distribution of resources more equitable.
What they are wary about is another Government cost cutting exercise that proves to be even more expensive to run and leaves brigades being managed at a regional level by career firefighters who do not understand the volunteer culture – a culture driven by service to community not a pay packet or career advancement.
Some fear the reform will end up facilitating a takeover bid by the MFS and the operational structure will be changed to suit bureaucracy rather than adapting to the geography and shared history of different rural areas.
However, some argue that the CFS is already managed by paid firefighters, who just happen to wear a CFS staff uniform, and volunteers’ fears are unfounded.
They say reforms are necessary to make sure volunteers can provide a better service through access to more training and resources, rather than having to fight for what they get as a separate entity.
Change is always difficult and steering a path towards a corporate structure that doesn’t alienate volunteers – CFS and SES – will be a hazardous journey.
Ultimately the Minister needs to make sure that changes at the top do not affect the firefighters at the bottom who volunteer to put their lives at risk every day.