The National Parks Vocational Branch (NPVB) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday 14 November to discuss a range of issues including:
Change in Government
The meeting observed that there had been some wins with the change in Government including with the control of wild horses in Kosciusko National Park (and the introduction of aerial culling). The PSA will be chasing up on the election commitment of more staff in National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Over the past five years staffing numbers have increased but mostly with temporary staff.
The PSA has continued to advocate for the conversion of temporary roles to ongoing. The meeting noted that while Ranger numbers remain relatively static since Future NPWS, the number of Project Officers has increased significantly, even in Park Operations. Some at the meeting believe that this is a cynical attempt to replace patch Rangers with Project Officers (specifically to deal with the significant increase of project work under the stimulus package).
Given the expansion of protected areas, the meeting acknowledged the need to boost Ranger numbers to manage the new reserves and continue to manage existing reserves as project works on park are diverting Rangers from normal park management operations, despite the increase of Project Officers.
Law enforcement in NPWS and Risk – E business report
After extensive lobbying by the PSA, the Risk E business report was finally posted on ParkSite (in a space most members would find difficult to locate). It raises serious questions about how NPWS manages risk in law enforcement and compliance. These serious shortcomings need to be addressed and the PSA/NPVB will be taking action to ensure safety in field operations is a priority.
One of the report’s recommendations was the resourcing of compliance in NPWS. The NPVB believes the Specialist Investigations Unit should report to the NPWS Executive and its resources (including staffing levels) increased substantially. The unit continues to struggle dealing with a significantly increased workload with only a handful of officers. There should be one Special Investigator for each operational branch and the unit should have additional support staff (not to mention vehicles)! Recruitment action has taken place to fill some of the vacancies in the unit but more additional staff are needed.
The meeting also expressed concern at the lack of support and training for wildlife licensing compliance.
The good news is that there is movement on the ‘fire undershirt’ front…. finally!
With the significant efforts and advocacy, of which there are too many to name here, it would appear that a new garment that won’t burn you alive is being tested. This garment has a Nomex component so should be far safer than the current shirt. Hopefully the new garment will be rolled out sooner rather than later.
The bad news is that two burn injuries happened while we waited for action on the fire undershirts. The PSA representatives on the Uniform Reference Group are disappointed at the announcement that all old uniform items would be collected for ‘recycling’ as building materials. This does not seem to accord with the original promises of sustainable disposal through maximising re-use.
Vehicle availability for Park Programs and SIU staff
Unfortunately, some Park Programs staff located in Operational Branches must go ‘cap in hand’ to obtain a vehicle, have suitable office space and equipment, and are often feeling marginalised in the workplace. Meanwhile SIU doesn’t even have any vehicles and access to 4WDs is limited. This is not acceptable. Increases in project work and new reserves should come with the necessary resources to effectively and efficiently manage them. All staff required to do field work should have access to vehicles.
New delegate appointed to NPVB executive committee.
While this AGM did not involve a ballot in the executive committee, one of the vacancies on the committee was filled at the meeting – Annie Thompson (a Yuin and Yorta Yorta woman and Joint Management Officer based in South Coast Branch) was welcomed to the committee to represent the interests of Aboriginal staff.
Did you know you can support the operation of the NPVB through making an additional small contribution through your pay?
These donations are tax deductible and will appear on the annual statement provided by the department to the Australian Tax Office. As little as $2 per pay can assist with our campaigns.
Keep informed via Viva Engage – there is a private community “NPVB – PSA members in NPWS” where updates are regularly posted. Also, all workplaces should also have a PSA Noticeboard – check if your workplace has one, and refresh or set up as needed.