NSW RFS boss to head new resilience agency
Celebrated NSW Rural Fire Service boss Shane Fitzsimmons is taking on a new role after making the "absolutely difficult and deeply personal" decision to step down from the RFS.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the establishment of Resilience NSW on Monday, saying the new agency would ensure the state was prepared and able to respond to crises - "be it COVID, be it cyber security, be it a whole range of things we may not foreshadow".
She said Mr Fitzsimmons would become the agency's commissioner in about a month, after deciding to retire from his position with the RFS.
"Who would have thought that in 2020, NSW would be facing a pandemic," Ms Berejiklian said.
"We don't know the challenges of the future but what I do know is that NSW, through Resilience NSW, will be able to focus on preparing and recovering from anything that comes our way."
Mr Fitzsimmons, 51, has been widely praised for his leadership during the horror bushfire season just ended.
He said the decision to step down as commissioner and move on to a new role was "absolutely difficult and deeply personal, but it's the right one".
"It's been a privilege and an absolute honour to have served in this organisation alongside so many tens of thousands of wonderful individuals, and in particular a privilege to lead the organisation as commissioner for over a decade," Mr Fitzsimmons told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
"I've seen very much this past season - the worst that mother nature can deliver - but I also saw the very best in our people."
Mr Fitzsimmons said drought-stricken communities had been "belted by bushfires" only for the extraordinary COVID-19 impact to compound the situation further.
"I very much care about and am concerned for the people of NSW ... and there is no doubt in my mind that I take on this new role with a deal of trepidation of course," he said.
"But I'm very open to the idea of continuing to make a meaningful difference in the lives and livelihoods of people, of communities, to help with business, to help with industry, and to help rebuild our economy."
He added in a statement that Resilience NSW would lead a whole-of-government prevention, preparedness and recovery effort, and oversee emergency management policy, service delivery and all aspects of disaster recovery.
Mr Fitzsimmons joined the RFS in 1985 and held a number of senior roles until his appointment as commissioner in 2008.
Emergency Services Minister David Elliott on Monday thanked him for his service.
"I don't think there's a single person who would disagree that Commissioner Fitzsimmons' leadership was a beacon of hope during our State's darkest hour," Mr Elliott said in a statement.
Rob Rogers will take over the role of NSW RFS commissioner, after 40 years as a member and nine years as deputy commissioner.