NSW needs another 1,000 permanent firefighting staff to avoid another black summer, says Public Service Association (PSA) union boss Stewart Little.
The association, which represents the professional staff of the Rural Fires Service (RFS), as well as park rangers and Forestry Corporation staff, says the state needs to reverse a decade worth of cuts and begin properly preparing NSW for future bushfire risks.
Mr Little says the government needs to end its over reliance on volunteers or face another catastrophic bushfire season.
“NSW will face another black summer, climate change guarantees this,” he says.
“Is it fair to keep relying on a temporary, unpaid workforce to be preparing and responding to these future catastrophes?
“This Black Summer we saw the consequence of staffing cuts and a lack of investment in our bushfire preparedness.
“The RFS went into a catastrophic bushfire season with a fifth of its permanent roles unfilled, because of budgetary pressures.”
Mr Little adds that the National Parks and Wildlife Service is responsible for 75% of the state’s hazard reduction, but its firefighting workforce has shrunk by a third in less than a decade.
“The reduction to National Parks firefighting staff include remote area firefighters, who play the vital role of chasing remote lighting strikes before they spread out of control,” he says.
“If the government is serious about keeping regional NSW safe they must demand permanent firefighting skilled staff, rather than try and shift more responsibility onto famers and private landowners to clear land and manage hazard reduction.”
In its submission to the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry, the union also called for more aircraft and better equipment for those on the front line of bushfires.