Please enter your email address to change your password.

NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry

March 30, 2020

Frontline cuts and an abject lack of planning by the NSW Government were major contributing factors to the 2019/2020 bushfire season, says the Australian Workers’ Union.

In its submission to the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry, the AWU says the NSW Government was guilty of stripping the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service of some of its most experienced staff, relied too heavily on volunteer and casual firefighters and failed to provide the resources needed to reduce fuel loads across national parks and state-owned forests.

The submission includes first hand testimony of those serving on the front-line who have called for the NSW Government to step up and ensure the NPWS and Forestry Corporation are fully funded and equipped ahead of the next fire season.

“The NSW Government was repeatedly warned that a disaster was in the making but it fell on deaf ears. They ignored firefighters pleas for more resources to undertake crucial hazard reduction in the months before the bushfire crisis,” said Daniel Walton, National Secretary of the AWU.

“Instead they focused on saving money by cutting key staff across NPSW and by making money by trying to privatise the forestry corp.

“It’s not only our firefighter members who paid a huge price for this wilful act of neglect. More than 1300 homes were lost and five million hectares were burnt, and 25 lives lost. Whilst we can’t predict what would have happened if the NSW Government had acted appropriately, this should serve as a giant wake-up call. We need more firefighters on the ground who are better equipped and better resourced to rebuild our forests and help prevent another catastrophic fire season.”

The submission also lays bare the lack of co-ordination and strategy across the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in relation to hazard reduction, and notes the responsibilities for risk mitigation is now scattered across a number of agencies. This, the submission, says ‘inhibits coordination, planning and budget support for fire related functions aimed at hazard reduction and risk mitigation’.

Reliance on casual state forest firefighting staff is also creating a problem with hazard reduction. These members are stood down at the end of each fire season leaving a depleted workforce unable to undertake crucial hazard reduction work at the best time of year.

The AWU Submission’s Key Proposals and Recommendations include:

  1. The NSW Government must immediately commit to filling more than 50 vacancies across NPSW.
  2. Funding must be found to employ 40 NPWS pest officers to help manage and protect endangered wildlife.
  3. $200 million to be provided for the Forestry Corp for a state wide tree planting program.
  4. Improved strategies and coordination of relevant agencies focused on hazard reduction and fire suppression in national parks and public land.
  5. The introduction of new techniques for all-year-round hazard reduction by implementing more indigenous cool burning.
  6. An extra $15 million to be given to State Forests to undertake hazard reductions throughout the year and the creation of two specialist fire mitigation teams.

The full submission is available here

Loading cart ⌛️ ...