FILE

National Parks managers dumped as fire risk grows

NORTH Coast national parks have been left vulnerable after a dozen regional managers were dumped across NSW just as the bushfire season hits, the union claims.

Public Service Association general secretary Stewart Little said the state's 14 national park regions had been cut to eight, with all regional managers - who oversee fire management and hazard reduction burns - forced to apply for their jobs.

Positions have been left vacant in areas including the North Coast, Blue Mountains, Hunter Central Coast, South Coast, metropolitan Sydney and the state's north west.

Mr Little said the decision to retire so many top positions meant three centuries of national parks expertise was walking out the door.

"This decision to remove dedicated, highly experienced staff from the organisation without transition arrangements in place at the start of the fire season is nothing short of grossly irresponsible," he said.

"The government's assault on this workforce is nothing less than a direct attack on public safety with bush firefighting plans either never being approved or hastily signed off with insufficient care due to staff shortages.

"National Parks staff are frontline firefighters all over the state, protecting lives, private property, forestry, homes, pastures, the lot. They stand shoulder to shoulder with Fire and Rescue and the Rural Fire Service."

The Office of Environment and Heritage claimed the changes would not affect firefighting and other national parks services.

Mr Little said national parks workers performed dangerous firefighting operations but were afforded less comprehensive compensation protection than those in other emergency services.

He said eliminating the service's top staff meant it would take years to replace their experience.

"You cannot tell me that someone who is dropped from a helicopter in the middle of nowhere in the bush with a can of petrol strapped to their back to do back-burning isn't worthy of being deemed a frontline emergency worker for the purposes of workers compensation," he said.

The NSW Rural Fire Service gave the North Coast and Far North Coast a high fire danger rating on Wednesday.

ARM NEWSDESK



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