The AWU, which represents firefighters across the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW), says the recommendations of NSW Bushfire Inquiry will do little to rebuild the state’s forests and parks or prevent another horror bush fire season from taking place.
“Our national parks and state forests were devastated by the summer’s bush fire season. Roads and bridges were destroyed, and whole swathes of forests razed to the ground,” said AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton.
“This should have been a golden opportunity to recognise the crucial work that was performed by firefighters last summer and provided them with the resources and funding to rebuild, replant and undertake crucial hazard reduction burns. But, instead they have once again been largely ignored and forgotten.”
The report backed the AWU’s call for 50 firefighting vacancies in the NPSW to be filled within a year and says they must be filled by 2021.
Mr Walton added: “Whilst an extra 50 firefighters is welcome across the state, it’s just a drop in the ocean in regards to what is really needed.
“NSW’s national parks and state forests were devastated by last summer’s bushfires yet there is barely a mention of how they will be rebuilt in the recommendations, let alone how they will manage and prevent future fire outbreaks after years of continued cutbacks.”
The AWU is calling on the NSW Government to fund 50 new field officer/firefighting positions across the FCNSW, as well as extra fire mitigation and pest control teams. It also says a major tree replanting scheme is needed across state forests.
As well as committing to filling the 50 firefighting vacancies in the NPWS, there is also an urgent need to employ pest control teams to help native wildlife recover.
The AWU says the NSW Government’s recent hiring of 122 extra NPWS firefighting positions also demonstrates it is not committed to fully funding and staffing the NPWS. The positions are only temporary with funding due to end next year.