Inquiry: firefight cost $32.5m

The colossal costs incurred by emergency services during the Hazelwood mine fire fight were revealed for the first time on Friday, with a running price tag of $32.5 million declared.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the amount was the latest figure he had been provided from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Country Fire Authority.

Mr Lapsley said the consolidated figure, which included the costs of bringing in an army of firefighting resources from across Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales, also included firefighter salaries.

However, he said the amount did not take into account the estimated value of CFA volunteer labour.

“We’re very careful how we put a badge to the price of volunteer labour, that has always been a huge issue,” Mr Lapsley said.

GDF SUEZ assets manager George Graham had earlier told the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry the cost of installing about 25 kilometres worth of fire service and drainage pipework during the February and March firefight came to about $2.5 million – a cost fronted by the company.

Counsel Assisting the Inquiry Melinda Richards commented on the $32.5 million figure as an “extraordinary cost to put out a fire” – predicting a “very difficult discussion” between GDF SUEZ and the CFA over cost sharings.

Mr Lapsley said while the CFA and MFB had so far footed the bill, he pointed to a formula within CFA legislation by which the State Government could seek compensation from GDF SUEZ, however he said it was “not written for total cost recovery”.