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21 Jul 2017

High level meeting: Stacey Tannos, Troy Grant and Catherine Burn at the State Rescue Board meeting at Dubbo on Friday. Photo: Paige Williams

High level meeting: Stacey Tannos, Troy Grant and Catherine Burn at the State Rescue Board meeting at Dubbo on Friday. Photo: Paige Williams

Dubbo has played host to a meeting of the commissioners of the state’s emergency services and Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant on Friday.

Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Paul Baxter, Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Stacey Tannos, NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, NSW SES Commissioner Mark Smethurst, NSW VRA Commissioner Mark Gibson and NSW Police Force Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn were part of the State Rescue Board meeting at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Mr Grant said the main item of business at the meeting was to ensure the services all worked well together, and also how to cater for falling volunteer numbers.

“Across NSW there has been gaps because a lot of our rescue reliance is on volunteers, and in some of our communities volunteer numbers have dwindled and that has put pressure on our capability,” Mr Grant said.

“They’ve done a review and the main business today is to make sure the services work better together and they are looking to cross work and cross-train.”

How to cater for falling volunteer numbers

It is interesting that this meeting was used to address the question: How to cater for falling volunteer numbers?

The answer to that question can be summed up in a simple word “Listen”.

This problem is an Australian wide problem as reported in the post titled ‘The future of volunteering in fire and emergency services (Australia wide)’ click HERE to read more.

A Nation Charred: Report on the inquiry into bushfires – 23rd October 2003

After the 2003 Canberra fires, Mr Gary Nairn, MP stated that the House of Representatives, Select Committee heard a consistent message right around Australia:

  • There has been grossly inadequate hazard reduction burning on public lands for far too long.
  • Local knowledge and experience is being ignored by an increasingly top-heavy bureaucracy.
  • When accessing the source of fires, volunteers are fed up with having their lives put at risk by fire trails that are blocked and left without maintenance.
  • There is a reluctance by state agencies to aggressively attack bushfires when they first start, thus enabling the fires to build in intensity and making them harder to control, and
  • Better communications between and within relevant agencies is long overdue.

Very little has changed in the 13 years since the report by Mr Nairn with every increasing bureaucracy, disregard for volunteer firefighters, failures to engage local knowledge and a reluctance by state agencies to aggressively attack bushfires. In fact, the situation has become worse.

It goes without saying that a step in the right direction would be to re-engage with locals and move away from the city-centric management that will never be able to fully understand regional and rural issues.

The only people who can possibly understand regional and rural issues are regional and rural people. This is a no-brainer.

We need to decentralise all of the NSW Rural Fire Service so that regional and rural engagement begins to happen as it once did under local government support.

 

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