National Park firefighting plans up in smoke in summer heat - Public Service Association

National Park firefighting plans up in smoke in summer heat

PSA media release:

Large areas of the state will be left exposed to bushfires at the peak of summer due to a restructure of National Park operations by the Office of Environment & Heritage said the Public Service Association (PSA).

National Park regions were reduced from 14 down to eight.

All Regional Managers, critical in fire management and hazard-reduction burns, were required to apply for their positions in the shakeup.

A large number were unsuccessful which will see up to 300 years of expertise walk out of NSW National Parks by Christmas.

The vacant positions are in such critical bushfire areas as the Blue Mountains, the Hunter Central Coast, North Coast and South Coast as well as Metropolitan Sydney, and the state’s North West.

“This decision to remove dedicated, highly experienced staff from the organisation without transition arrangements in place at the start of the fire season is nothing short of grossly irresponsible,” said PSA General Secretary Stewart Little.

“The Government’s assault on this workforce is nothing less than a direct attack on public safety with bush firefighting plans either never being approved or hastily signed off with insufficient care due to staff shortages.”

“National Parks’ staff are front line fire fighters all over the state protecting lives, private property, forestry, homes, pastures, the lot. They stand shoulder to shoulder with Fire and Rescue and the Rural Fire Service.”

National Parks’ staff also fight fires with less-comprehensive workers compensation protection than other emergency service personnel.

“You cannot tell me that someone who is dropped from a helicopter in the middle of nowhere in the bush with a can of petrol strapped to their back to do backburning isn’t worthy of being deemed a front line emergency worker for the purposes of workers compensation,” said Little.

“As well as fire-fighting skills, the departing managers take with them a wealth of knowledge regarding the operations of the state’s National Parks.”

“These skills are learned on the ground, not in a classroom, so it will take years to replace the knowledge we are about to lose,” said Stewart Little.

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