Large areas of the state will be left exposed to bushfires and uncontrolled wild dogs in the wake of a restructure of National Park operations by the Office of Environment & Heritage, the Public Service Association (PSA) says.
The restructure in the lead up to the bushfire season, when experienced planning should be in full swing, will also impact on the safety of the 30 million people who each year flock to the state’s National Parks.
“The Government’s assault on this workforce is nothing less than a direct attack on public safety,” said PSA General Secretary, Stewart Little.
“Just last month, a Coffs Harbour resident was confronted by three wild dogs outside her house, while a southern NSW grazier has built a $300,000, 32-kilometre fence to keep the feral population out.
“At a time when the wild dog population is peaking in the bush, Area Manager positions are being cut leaving farmers alone to deal with the issue and the potential for further significant stock losses.
Area managers coordinate and seek funding to resource wild dog control programs for their areas but have already been hampered by severe job cuts.
NPWS has lost 100 experienced Rangers over the past few years with this restructure set to further decimate their ranks – an impact that will be particularly felt in regional areas and by farmers.
“In recent years, NPWS has downsized from 66 areas across the state to what will be just 35 under this latest restructure, with staffing reduced accordingly,” Mr Little said.
“Already 14 Regional Managers have been lost and now 15 Area Managers, who also manage bushfires, will be cut as part of the restructure that has just been announced.
“The savage irony is that the National Parks and Wildlife Service this year celebrates its 50th anniversary yet hundreds and hundreds of years of experience is being shunted out the door,” Mr Little said.
“National Parks’ staff are expert front line fire fighters protecting lives, private property, forestry, homes, pastures, the lot.
“The skills of these individuals are learned on the ground, not in a classroom, so it will take years to replace the knowledge we are once more about to lose.