Union's claims dismissed as scaremongering
THE Environment Minister's office has accused the Australian Workers Union of scaremongering in the lead up to potentially one of the most catastrophic bushfire seasons on record.
The union's NSW Secretary Daniel Walton claims that cuts to the National Parks and Wildlife Service will render it: "critically under-prepared and under-resourced for the coming summer in the Coffs Harbour region."
The concerns relate specifically to the reduction in senior staff and the downsizing of firefighting trucks from Toyota Land Cruisers Cat 9 units with 500ltr capacity to 300ltr capacity Ford Rangers.
"It is disappointing that the AWU would deliberately mislead the public with this kind of misinformation that preys on people's fears for their safety in order to advance their agenda,” an Office of Environment and Heritage representative said.
"NPWS consults regularly with the AWU, and they are well aware that we are currently increasing the number of field staff across NPWS, not decreasing it.”
The union has, however, spoken out about cuts specifically to senior staff which they say has led to a reduction of approximately 25 per cent of experienced specialist firefighters in the Coffs Coast region.
AWU estimates that around 100 senior NWPS staff have been made redundant across the state, including 10 or more senior staff from the Coffs Coast region.
But the Office of Environment and Heritage insists there are "adequate resources to conduct hazard reduction and emergency response activities” and deny that the NPWS has downgraded its firefighting equipment.
"In fact we are improving it. Over the last three years, its fleet of 292 Landcruiser Cat 9 firefighting units has increased by 14 per cent.
"Firefighting in NSW is a cooperative exercise, led by the NSW Rural Fire Service, and involving the Fire and Rescue NSW and Forestry Corporation. All four agencies have a long and successful history of supporting one another in incidents under one another's control.”