The following newspaper articles were published in the Central Western Daily and the Daily Liberal on 17 Nov 2016.
A message to Regional and Rural voters
The VFFA will not give up on this issue until the concrete has set hard and the furniture is being moved in. We are pushing onwards with our campaign titled:
Let’s put the RURAL back into the Rural Fire Service
It is very disappointing that the government has not heeded the warnings made clear in the Orange By Election.
Orange and Dubbo (like many other regional areas) have a lot to offer, flying from Sydney to Orange or Dubbo would be comparable and a lot more enjoyable than dealing with city traffic. The Commissioner could even have the chopper standing by just outside his office.
It is a very short sighted decision and it may proof to become extremely costly in terms of voter confidence in the lead up to the next election.
ORANGE and a host of other regional centres in the state have been ruled out of the running to become the new home of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).
NSW Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott this week said a new, state-of-the-art headquarters for the RFS is likely to be situated within 40 minutes of Sydney’s CBD.
The announcement comes as a blow to city’s like Orange, Parkes, Dubbo and Armidale which had, to differing extents, thrown their hats into the ring as potential hosts of the facility and its hundreds of staff.
Orange City Councillor Reg Kidd first made moves to highlight the city’s suitability in 2012.
Armed with a unanimous vote from his fellow councillors to campaign for the relocation and knowing the Baird Governemnt’s “platform of decentralisation”, Cr Kidd in February met with Mr Elliott to push the city’s cause.
But the minister’s announcement put paid to any hopes of housing the planned $14.2 million facility in the Central West.
Mr Elliott said being close to Sydney was “essential” so “key stakeholders”, including NSW Police and National Parks and media outlets “have efficient access” to RFS headquarters.
“It is … essential to have an inbuilt capability to enable media to easily transition to … headquarters and conduct live broadcasts, with travel time an important consideration,” he said.
Former Dubbo deputy mayor Ben Shields said moving the facility to the region would have made good political sense for a Government smarting from the dramatic swing in the Orange byelection.
“The Nationals got a bloody nose on the weekend and they need to look seriously at decentralisation and this is staring them right in the eye,” Mr Shields said.
Regional RFS HQ hopes doused
The NSW Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott has effectively removed any hope of Dubbo becoming the new home of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).
Dubbo’s former deputy mayor Ben Shields has long campaigned for the headquarters to be moved to Dubbo, while the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA) support a move into regional Australia.
But a new state-of-the-art headquarters for the RFS is likely to be situated within 40 minutes of Sydney’s CBD, Mr Elliott has said.
“The NSW government is investing $14.2 million in 2017-18 to establish a new state-of-the-art headquarters for the NSW Rural Fire Service,” Mr Elliott said.
“Ideally the new site will be within 30-40 minutes of the Sydney CBD.
“A call of Lease Proposal released in May 2016 has closed with proponents currently undergoing a tender evaluation process undertaken by Properties NSW in conjunction with NSW RFS.”
But Mr Shields said the NSW government should look seriously at Dubbo.
“We’ve got two highways going through us, we’ve got a great water supply, we’ve got access to the rest of the state through our airport,” he said.
“All signs point to Dubbo when it comes to the RFS headquarters.”
The investment would also go help mend the rift between central west voters and the NSW Nationals, he said, as evidenced at the weekend’s Orange byelection.
“The Nationals got a bloody nose on the weekend in Orange and they need to look seriously at decentralisation and this is staring them right in the eye,” Mr Shields said.
“[Deputy Prime Minister] Barnaby Joyce is doing a great job…he’s moving jobs to places like Armidale.
“What I’m saying to the state guys is follow what the feds are doing!”
“Could you imagine moving the RFS to Dubbo and the number of jobs it would bring?” VFFA media officer Jon Russell said.
“People would be going to Woolies, to Coles, to Aldi, buying a home, at the start they’d be renting.
“We want to put the ‘rural’ back into the RFS.”
But Mr Elliott said being close to Sydney CBD was “essential” so “key stakeholders”, including NSW Police and National Parks, and media outlets “have efficient access” to RFS headquarters.
“It is…essential to have an inbuilt capability to enable media to easily transition to…headquarters and conduct live broadcasts…with travel time an important consideration,” he said.
So the media attending State Operations comes before general public business. The media will travel anywhere for a story and have their own aircraft to do the travel.
Has the Minister not embraced technological.
Furthermore, public servants hold a grade in the NSW Public Service, and this was to enable the positions to be situated/ moved anywhere in the state. I would say the resistance to moved to rural areas would be those highly paid public servants are not willing to move and will use every excuse to stay in Sydney.
Barnaby Joyce’s attempt to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale resulted in 85% of the staff quitting rather than uproot their families from their homes of many years and move hundreds of km away to the country. The ones who stay are the ones so hopeless they can’t get work elsewhere. Same would happen with RFS and that wouldn’t help anyone.
2/3 of RFS staff already work in regional areas anyway – at zone offices everywhere.
It needs to be over the Mountain to have more connection with the volunteers and a lot easier for bushies to get to.
Thanks for your thoughts.
I’m sure that you are not suggesting that 15% of NSW RFS staff are hopeless and couldn’t get work elsewhere.
I do acknowledge that decentralisation of a government department has a range of benefits and problems but I can see many great opportunities for volunteers and staff.
The main benefit is to provide a spacious facility that can be used for a huge spectrum of RFS activities (not just admin and operations).
It is also worth noting that key components of the NSW Government’s decentralisation policy agenda include:
1. Actively pursuing strategies and policies to encourage decentralisation – steady and strategic growth in regions
2. Ensuring the services people need to make regional living attractive and viable are available and of high quality
3. Giving increased local decision-making and participation to regional communities
4. Managing NSW’s predicted population growth with a careful balance between green-fields, urban infill and regional housing growth
5. Providing infrastructure to increase the productivity and build the capacity of regional economies to grow
6. Identifying more public sector job opportunities for relocation to regional areas, and
7. Working with local government authorities, including regional councils and shires, to deliver the right priorities and the best value for local areas from the NSW roads budget.
Key initiatives being implemented to further the Decade of Decentralisation policy include:
1. Delivery of priority infrastructure to regional NSW
2. Proposed reforms to NSW’s planning system which will support regional development
3. Delivery of infrastructure in mining-affected communities
4. Implementation of initiatives to support local decision-making
5. Grants to encourage people to relocate from metropolitan Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong to regional NSW
6. Ongoing implementation of the local government reform agenda; and Government agency decentralisation.
There is a new National party minister now, the game has changed.
Word has it that the RFS will move to the Commonwealth Bank offices for a period with the building of a nsw five storey building at homebush Bay for the new headquarters.
Staff have said that is to small for a head office as the current building required many staff to move to glendenning.
So why is there poor planning for the future or does the government have other plans for the new building?
There is no good reason for this agency to stay in Sydney. In fact the LATs could operate from a regional airport just as well from Richmond.