|The Public Service Association is pleased the NSW government has heard its calls to address the crisis in the state’s bushfire fighting agencies, but wants to see longterm, sustainable funding delivered to prepare the state for future Black Summers.|
|Following the union’s submission to the NSW’s Bushfire Inquiry, the government has committed $192 million over the next five years to invest in new equipment, improved fire trails and local emergency infrastructure, said Stewart Little, general secretary of the PSA.
“The union has long called for proper mental health support, upgraded firefighting vehicles and equipment and the need to properly invest in bushfire mitigation – we are pleased the government has heard these calls and acted,” said Mr Little.
The investment in mental health is particularly welcome and long over due, and the union hopes to see this intiative expanded across the public service.
The union says insecure and temporary work remains too high within the RFS, particularly in its mitigation services team, who are responsible for overseeing hazard reduction and preparing their communities for bushfires and other emergencies.
“If your job is dedicated to preparing our state for future emergencies your job is not temporary. Because of climate change the demand for hazard reduction and other preparation work now needs to be managed year round – they need to be permanent to do that.”
The union was also waiting on more detail about what 90 new RFS roles meant.
“In 2019, RFS went into the worst bushfire season with a 20% vacancy rate – centuries of senior bushfire planning experience had walked out the door. NSW has lost more than 1000 skilled bushfire fighting workers over the past decade – 90 new workers is just a drop in the ocean to what we really need.
“Last Black Summer was a direct consequence of staffing cuts and a lack of investment in our bushfire preparedness – we need to address that now so we don’t see history repeat itself.”
Suze Metherell 0412 867 084