Secret internal documents leaked to the NSW Labor Opposition reveal the Liberal Berejiklian Government has failed to fill more than 100 front-line firefighting positions in national parks across the state.
The staff shortfall is on top of significant funding and jobs cuts to the National Parks and Wildlife Service that the Berejiklian Government was forced to admit to last week.
Front-line firefighting vacancies breakdown:
Greater Sydney – 13 Hunter Central Coast – 12 North Coast – 15 Northern Inland – 7 South Coast – 17 with 4 in the Eurobodalla and 3 on the Sapphire Coast Southern Ranges – 29 West Branch – 22
Total - 115
When asked by the NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay during Question Time this week in the NSW Parliament to confirm these vacancies, the Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian avoided answering directly and instead falsely claimed around 1200 firefighting positions are currently employed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
In a media release issued by the NSW Labor Leader, Ms McKay says "Her comeback blatantly contradicts a response from her Government to a Parliamentary Question only months ago, which confirmed the NPWS only has 1044 firefighters."
Ms McKay said: “For the Government to slash funding and jobs to such a critical service is bad enough, but now to leave so many crucial positions vacant is absolutely disgraceful.”
Labor’s Shadow Minister for Environment Kate Washington said: “The Government has cut National Parks to the bone. They have slashed front-line workers who manage fire risk and hazard reduction, they have cut the National Parks budget, and now they have implemented a hiring freeze for the few positions that are left. These dangerous decisions have very real consequences.”
"The NSW Labor Opposition is calling on the Government to stop blaming everyone else for the current bushfire situation and immediately reverse their hiring freeze and dangerous cuts to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
According to the document titled “Living with Fire in NSW National Parks: A strategy for managing bushfires in national parks and reserves 2012–2021” a minimum firefighting force of 1350 is required in the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
A firefighter is defined as ‘Any employee, volunteer or agent of any fire agency who occupies, or is designated to undertake, a role for the purpose of fire suppression.’
The Public Service Association of NSW (PSA) have continued to place a spot light on the issue reporting back in December 2017 that:
"The Berijiklian Government is overseeing the scrapping of 13 highly experienced Area Managers – who have a critical role in bushfire management. In recent years NPWS has downsized from 66 areas across the state to what will be just 37 under this latest restructure.
"Due to the current restructure, Pest Management Officers and Fire Management Officers have been slashed across the state with the new structure containing just eight PMOs.
These cuts to specialist roles mean fewer conservation programs, reduced maintenance of facilities and fire hazard reduction, less focus on dealing with pests and weeds, and the increasing problem of wild dogs and deer."
"Admin support has been downgraded all across the state resulting in loss of crucial regional jobs and in many cases, massive wage reductions. With wage growth at all time lows, the impact of this restructure will be felt hardest in the regions.
These cuts are being made because of the massive reduction in funding from the Berejiklian Government, with 121 million dollars slashed from their budget."
Images from the rally at Bega that protested against the dramatic cuts in the National Parks and Wildlife Service. source