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February 27, 2014

Air quality and the impacts of the Morwell mine fire have been raised in Federal Parliament by The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.

Mr Chester told Parliament that he had personally briefed the Prime Minister on the situation and he highlighted the level of anger and frustration in the community.

“To appreciate the difficulties, the discomfort and the concerns of the Morwell people, you need to visit the town when the fire is burning and the prevailing winds are blowing smoke directly across the town,” Mr Chester told Federal Parliament.

“It has been extraordinarily difficult for residents in the Morwell community to deal with the smoke and the ash which is impacting on their town. The air quality is being monitored by the EPA, and emergency services and HAZMAT technicians are in the region.

“The emergency services and the EPA will continue to monitor over the coming weeks to minimise any risk to communities or the firefighters, but we can expect to have continued smoke haze for some time in the Valley as our firefighters deal with this outbreak.

“Of course, firefighter safety is absolutely critical in this effort. Some firefighters are required to wear breathing apparatus and carbon monoxide levels are regularly checked as they undertake their work.”

Mr Chester told Parliament there were three key issues: putting the fire out as soon as possible; protecting the health of local residents; and working to ensure that there is no recurrence of such a fire.

“We are making every effort to ensure the community – indeed the nation – is aware of the fire situation they are facing,” Mr Chester said.

“A great deal has been done but I accept that we can always do more. We can always respond more quickly to concerns or ensure that information is provided in a more timely manner.

“May I stress that help is available throughout the Morwell district and the community is not being ignored.”

Mr Chester also used the opportunity to thank the volunteers and staff of emergency services and local community groups who have rallied to help people who have been affected by the bushfires.

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