We need permanent firefighting positions and funding to keep state safe

The Australian Workers’ Union has welcomed the funding boost to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) but says it will come too late for this year’s fire season and is just a temporary fix.

The NSW Government has just announced it will fund an extra 125 firefighting positions across the state but crucially they will only be ready to start work by November – long after the critical fire hazard season has got underway – and will be funded for just one year.

Daniel Walton, National Secretary of the AWU, said: “This is a band-aid to a service that has suffered cutbacks for years. It has lost a quarter of its most senior firefighters at the hands of NSW bureaucrats. And at the height of the recent bush fire season there were unfilled vacancies across the state which is just criminal.

“This should have been the perfect opportunity for the NSW Government to outline its long term commitment to the National Parks and Wildlife Service but instead we got a short term fix which will put lives at risk.”

The 125 firefighters will be trained by existing NPWS officers in firefighting and fire management techniques. Their contract will end in September 2021.

Mr Walton said: “The bushfire season is starting earlier and lasting longer every year. We need to build up an army of experienced and fully trained firefighters who will be with the NPWS for the long-term who can
undertake crucial hard reduction services in the cooler winter months, as well as having the know-how to respond to the very worst that nature throws at us. Our firefighters contributed more than 43,000 days to the recent bush fire season and put their lives at risk to help others. They deserve far better from the NSW Government.”

The AWU has spent the last week working with the NSW Government outlining its concerns and achieved a number of concessions, including allowing giving junior staff in the NPWS the first opportunity to apply for these new jobs – known as field officer positions. The NSW Government also agreed to fund more fire fighting vehicles.

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