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Residents of NSW are provided with the following emergency warning message:

If the NSW Government does not move the NSW Rural Fires Service head office to a regional or rural locality, we are in danger of losing any hope of restoring faith in the NSW RURAL Fire Service. We need to take immediate action. Any delay puts the future of our volunteer based RURAL Fire Service at greater risk.

Leaving the NSW RURAL Fire Service in Sydney will further exacerbate the situation with catastrophic levels of bureaucracy and red tape that is far removed from the grass roots service delivery that regional and RURAL people once knew. Today’s city-centric management has lost touch with the original intention of the RURAL Fire Service with skilled and experienced firefighters walking away after many years of dedicated service.

Some examples of disconnection with rural people include:

  1. Removal of practical, early fire suppression equipment like the tanker trailers used by many farmers.
  2. Discouragement and removal of radio communication systems that are accessible to farmers, volunteers (at home) and the local community. Often replaced with social media that does not always work in many areas.
  3. Perceptions of asset protection are based upon city centric ideals and cultures.
  4. Moving away from land management practices used by indigenous Australians and farmers.
  5. Development of plant machinery registers and contractor agreements, with strict regulations that discourages local engagement by farmers with machinery.
  6. Allocation of funding, determined upon local government wealth whilst rural areas are often neglected. State money should be distributed across the state based upon local needs, not local wealth.
  7. Management of fires without local input and engagement.
  8. Failure to recognise the firefighting capability of farmers and other local resources.
  9. Failure to retain existing firefighting capabilities and techniques as new firefighting technologies are developed.
  10. Firefighting has become “Big Business” with many persons, companies and contractors deriving large incomes from firefighting activities. This has created a situation where a perception of “delaying extinguishment for profit and profile” has developed.
  11. Burning has been surrounded by too much red tape, also referred to as “green tape”.
  12. Rural people, with many years of experience are being pushed aside and asked to leave the RFS.
  13. Rural people are being subjected to bullying and harassment if they choose to actively oppose and speak out against the direction of the Rural Fire Service. This problem is so serious that the VFFA is genuinely concerned about the welfare of these people.
  14. Training is moving away from the “hands on” approach (popular with many rural people) and being replaced by on-line content that gobbles up download limits and required bandwidth that many rural people don’t have access to. There is a financial and logistical cost associated with this type of training that has not been properly addressed by government. Perhaps every NSW RFS station needs a computer and an internet connection. Many don’t even have power.
  15. Expansion of RFS capability without rural consultation.
  16. Claims of Volunteer consultation are based upon urban RFS influence because those demographics have greater access to the chosen NSW RFS communications media / networks and infrastructure.

The benefits of decentralisation are:

  1. More room / space for the NSW RFS to set up their State Operations.
  2. Cheaper real estate with the opportunity for transfer of existing government owned land at low cost or no-cost to tax payers.
  3. More central location for deployment of staff and resources to support volunteers across the State.
  4. Less traffic.
  5. Easy access to aviation including domestic flights and operational aviation capability.
  6. Opportunity to engage more rural people into NSW RFS staff positions over time.
  7. An opportunity for existing NSW RFS staff to cash in on a more cost-effective lifestyle, lower cost real estate and country living.
  8. Jobs for rural NSW.
  9. Spreading emergency service operations around the state. Don’t have all your eggs in one basket (Sydney basin).
  10. Room to develop a state training facility for more “hands on” training.
  11. The ability to construct and develop a “state of the art” NSW RFS Head Office that is more spacious and at a fraction of the cost associated with developing a facility in Sydney.

What can we do to change this terrible situation?

  1. Stand up and be counted

The only way that we can turn this situation around is to stand united to strengthen the voice of rural people, NSW RFS volunteers and city people who support these views.

The VFFA is happy to work with the NSW Government to help bring about change and we are prepared to aggressively campaign to represent the views of our members and supporters.

Sign up for free VFFA membership to further strengthen your voice.

  1. Make a submission to the Inquiry into emergency services agencies that is being conducted by the Legislative Council, Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Legal Affairs.

They are conducting an inquiry into and reporting on emergency services agencies as follows:

  1. The prevalence of bullying, harassment and discrimination, as well as the effectiveness of the protocols and procedures in place to manage and resolve such complaints within emergency services agencies including:
    1. The NSW Rural Fire Service
    2. Fire and Rescue NSW
    3. The NSW Police Force
    4. The Ambulance Service of NSW
    5. The NSW State Emergency Service
  1. The support structures in place to assist victims of workplace bullying, harassment and/ or discrimination within emergency services agencies.
  2. The support services available to emergency services workers and volunteers to assist with mental health issues resulting from workplace trauma and the effectiveness of those programs.
  3. The appropriateness of uniforms provided to personnel in emergency services agencies.
  4. The relocation of the NSW Rural Fire Services Headquarters to Orange, Dubbo or Parkes, or
  5. Any other related matter.

You can download the Terms of Reference document, the Upper House Committee brochure and the Guide to Writing Submissions document from the www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries web site (scroll down to the Emergency service agencies link)

The VFFA has also made this information available on our web site at http://volunteerfirefighters.org.au/inquiry-emergency-services-agencies

Please email submissions to portfoliocommittee4@parliament.nsw.gov.au

Further questions can be directed to:

Merrin Thompson
Inquiry manager | Upper House Committees
Inquiry into emergency services agencies
Parliament of New South Wales
Telephone: (02) 9230 2895
Email:merrin.thompson@parliament.nsw.gov.au
Parliament House, Macquarie Street Sydney NSW, 2000 Australia

Submissions close on the 23rd July 2017

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