Park Watch presentation to Eurobodalla Shire Meeting
Park Watch Spokesperson on National Park Operations: Ross McKinney
Loss of NSW National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) jobs resulting in long lasting serious negative impacts on social, economic and natural environment across the whole of the Eurobodalla Shire.
Details of the Issue
The NPWS is being systematically dismantled.
There has been over 200 jobs lost to date.
Anthony Lean, CEO of OEH has responded to Park Watch & the ABC South East by stating that there will be 119 new positions. These positions, if they ever eventuate are low skilled, low paid and with no experience. It takes years of training and experience to bring a person up to bushfire fighting, search & rescue, and pest species management standards.
The 70 Senior Field Supervisors within NSW have been informed that these positions have been cut to 37 so 33 highly trained & highly experienced persons will lose their jobs. The advertising of these positions will begin shortly. These families will leave the rural communities they lived & worked in.
The next round of Ranger Restructures scheduled for March/April 2018 has now been postponed until after NSW election in March 2019. This postponement is in the main, I believe a result of rural communities becoming very upset with families leaving, public pressure is mounting on local members and organisations like Park Watch are asking pointed questions & requesting transparency of decision making.
With visitor numbers up by 32%, visitor facilities are being run down, walking tracks are degrading, pest & weed species programs are being seriously cut back or suspended. On a recent visit to one N. P. I observed fire access tracks closed. This was on a Park Fire Ban day. I asked why these accesses were closed and was informed that “every member of staff we can afford is out fighting fires and we have insufficient staff to maintain the fire access.”
An estimated $121M has been cut from the budget
At the Climate Action Monaro forum recently held at the Colinton Bushfire Fire Brigade Establishment overwhelming scientific evidence was presented by the University Of NSW & ANU that more experienced and highly trained bush firefighting personnel needed to be placed on the ground immediately due to increasing risks to life and property from increasing hot weather creating severe bushfire events.
Within the Eurobodalla Shire area the job losses of highly experienced NPWS staff include:
Administration and Clerical positions (financial & field support positions)
Fire Management Officers
Remote Area Firefighters
Incident Command Staff
Geographical Information Officers
Shorebird Management Officer
Pest Species Program Coordinators
Feral animal Program Coordinators
Impact on Eurobodalla Shire Communities
Families are forced to relocate to other areas of the State taking their income and savings with them.
Decreased expenditure with the Region.
Loss of expenditure within rural towns and villages resulting in some cases of businesses closing.
Visitor facilities (scenic drives, walking tracks, picnic/camping areas) not being maintained to an acceptable standard affecting repeat visits to the Council Area resulting in loss of spend in rural communities. This is due to $121M being slashed from the NPWS budget.
Farmers will need to increase funding and efforts on weed and pest specie control in an attempt to maintain existing food production levels.
Major increase to bush firefighting efforts resulting in loss of employee time to small businesses.
Increase in efforts of an aging volunteer firefighting force to assist in bushfire events resulting in loss of time to food production and businesses.
Reduced capability to help develop and support existing and new regional on-park tourism initiatives.
Increased park use fees use will result to offset the privatisation of commercial operations traditionally manged by NPWS.
Loss of social cohesion in the community.
Less participation in educational, recreational activities, annual community events & volunteer assistance in communities.
School class sizes decreased.
Increase in illegal activities (illegal take and kill, commercial firewood cutting, vandalism to visitor facilities, illegal crop growing) resulting in an increasing reliance on NSW Police to assist lessening efforts by Police on more important illegal issues.
Lack of staff to maintain roads, tracks and trails resulting in increased erosion into creeks and tributaries feeding rural drinking water supplies.
Lack of staff to adequately maintain visitor facilities resulting increase waste materials.
The impacts associated with the on-going NPWS job losses through restructure after restructure are very similar to those identified by the NSW Ombudsman’s investigation into the Department of Land and Water Conservation (DLWC), which include: loss of staff numbers, expertise, skills and corporate knowledge, disruptions to systems and strategy and, a major loss of services to the NSW public.
The most disturbing conclusion that can be derived from the Ombudsman’s DLWC findings, and information Park Watch has received from serving NPWS officers, is that there is a systematic dismantling of yet another environment based organisation. In this case, it is the organisation charged with managing this state’s unique national park system; an organisation once considered one of the world’s top five conservation agencies.
The issue, I believe facing Eurobodalla Shire is whether it is prepared to allow these serious impacts to continue to be inflicted on their communities and businesses or demand a stop to these unnecessary actions.
Spokesperson on National Park Operations