Secret internal documents leaked to the NSW Labor Opposition reveal the Liberal Berejiklian Government has failed to fill more than 100 frontline firefighting positions in national parks across the state, 17 of those from the South Coast.
The shocking staff shortfall is on top of significant funding and jobs cuts to the National Parks and Wildlife Service that the Berejiklian Government was forced to admit to last week.
Frontline firefighting vacancies breakdown:
Greater Sydney – 13
Hunter Central Coast – 12
North Coast – 15
Northern Inland – 7
South Coast – 17
Southern Ranges – 29
West Branch – 22
Total - 115
When asked by the NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay during Question Time today in the NSW Parliament to confirm these vacancies, the Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian avoided answering directly and instead falsely claimed around 1200 firefighting positions are currently employed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Her comeback blatantly contradicts a response from her Government to a Parliamentary Question only months ago, which confirmed the NPWS only has 1044 firefighters.
According to the document titled “Living with Fire in NSW National Parks: A strategy for managing bushfires in national parks and reserves 2012–2021” a minimum firefighting force of 1350 is required in the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Labor’s Shadow Minister for the Illawarra Ryan Park said: “Since 2011 this Government has set about decimating National Parks. They have slashed their budget, cut resources and now are leaving them with vacant positions.”
Member for Wollongong Paul Scully said: “I am absolutely stumped that the Government can think that not filling vacant NPWS firefighters positions – the third highest vacancy level in the state. It’s time that the Government gets on with filling these positions so the Illawarra and South Coast, along with the rest of the state, has the bushfire fighting resources it needs.”
Member for Shellharbour Anna Watson said: “Our government should be ensuring the safety of our citizen’s through proper staffing and resourcing of our National Parks and Wildlife Service. Unfortunately, today’s figures reveal that the Liberals care more about penny-pinching that protecting the people of New South Wales.”