This article is an opinion piece, published in The Land Newspaper 29th Sept 2019.

In the article, Mal Peters and the VFFA were attacked on social media for the reference to Greg Mullins, as former chief of NSW RFS. The VFFA believes this to be an editorial error rather than an error by Mr. Peters.

Regardless of who made the error, Greg Mullins was former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW). Mr. Mullins is a thoroughly decent man just like Mal Peters. Mr. Mullins has made some statements that have upset some farmers and he has made climate change comments without referencing the massive fuel load issues that we face today.

Mr. Mullins has now retired from the fire service, he can hold his head high because he has achieved many great outcomes for FRNSW and the people of NSW.

The VFFA encourages open discussion so that we can move forward. We all have the right to free speech and we should give everyone a chance to have their say.

Over to you, Mal…

Click HERE or the logo (above) to view the original article.

Opinion: Mal Peters reckons most times, you need a good dose of commonsense

From the Back Paddock, Mal Peters 29 Sep 2019, 10:30 a.m.

The Rural Fire Service has become a behemoth that could do well to lower its sights a little, writes Mal Peters, who helped found the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association.

Like many farmers I have been fighting bushfires for over 40 years doing no more than any farmer in helping neighbours.

But in that time I have watched the Rural Fire Service (RFS) develop into a mega bureaucracy that is probably justified in the hinterland of cities and towns but appears overly bureaucratic and expensive around broadacre farms.

Generalisations always get you into trouble, but I think it’s fair to say that within 30 kilometres of most towns are those predominantly smaller blocks, affectionately known as “blockies”. 

These poor buggers are prevented from making decent fire breaks because of native vegetation laws.

Couple that with being next door to public land – which in some cases doesn’t have stock grazing – fuel loads can become a problem.

I don’t like it when farmers’ reputations are smeared, as they were during a recent episode of The Drum on ABC television where I was a fellow panellist with Greg Mullins, a former chief of NSW RFS Commissioner of FRNSW. 

The discussion was about the perennial problem of fuel reduction burns and I expressed the opinion the RFS had clamped the window so tightly on fire permits it was difficult to mange fuel loads.

Mr Mullins then said farmers often allowed fires to get away and burn national parks.

My experience doesn’t suggest that, so I asked if he knew whether the alleged offenders were broadacre farmers or blockies.

He then said there were no blockies around Tenterfield.

I reckon there’s hundreds.

As the RFS expanded, tensions developed between farmers and the paid staff, and I was proud to be part of the establishment of the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA) when Peter Cannon started it trying to counter the RFS Association.

Another concern of farmers is the huge cost of the RFS and with people like Greg Mullins advocating for 30 fire-fighting jets the cost will only grow. 

The RFS has become an unassailable empire that is paid for by our insurance levee (73%), the stamp duty on that levee (16%) and local government rates (11%). 

So don’t thank state governments – those paying insurance and rates are stumping up for the bill. 

A recent move to tie the charges to council rates was dropped by the NSW government after it spent $25 million exploring stuff without much explanation of anything it found out. 

That would have brought in the 10% of people who do not insure buildings and 35% not insuring contents.

Nobody questions the value of the RFS in urban and town hinterlands, but farmers worry about the exponential increase in our fire levy and council rates.

If the RFS plans to buy 30 big jets it will only get worse.

It is time the state government put the brakes on spending.

Mal Peters

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts

  • Let the volunteers make the decisions that have done all the firefighting for many years and have been fairly happy with the setup. Since the release of the review, the Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland (RFBAQ) has been pushing for…

  • The title of this post is nothing new, it is also the title from chapter 2 of the report on the inquiry into bushfires that was put together by the House of Representatives, Select Committee into the Australian bushfires in…

  • The VFFA are concerned that the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action are overlooking key elements of land management practice. Climate change or variability impacts upon many factors relating to wildfire, but we are all at greater risk because we have…

  • They say that a picture is worth 1,000 words.Here are 3 pictures and a little more than 1,000 words that add some fuel to the climate change debate as published by the Sydney Morning Herald. Flashback, 1939: Sydney’s hottest day80…

  • Are modern firefighting agencies inciting fear as a method of risk management rather than applying appropriate risk control measures?  Fear is a powerful tool, it sells newspapers, keeps the television ratings alive, gives our radio stations some great material to…

  • The recent bushfires in NSW are not in "mid winter", where they occurred as suggested by many. The bushfire season in mid-NSW always starts earlier than in southern Australia, with bushfires around Sydney and in the Blue Mountains historically occurring…

One thought on “The Empirical Ways of the Rural Fire Service

  • November 1, 2019 at 8:15 pm
    Permalink

    Mal Peters is 100% correct.

    The RFS has become a city centric bureaucratic behemoth.

    There is a clear disconnect between the RFS head office bureaucrats with all their braid and rural farmers.

    Mother Nature is laughing at the RFS and the NPWS bureaucracy with their multiple layers of rules and regulations that act as a restraint on hazard reduction by starting landscape fires with monotonous regularity on the NSW North Coast via lighting strikes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.