Grafton public service jobs to go

By DAVID BANCROFT

AN unknown number of jobs, including that of the regional director, are to be cut from the Department of Natural Resources in Grafton.

In a carefully-worded press release issued yesterday, the department director general, Dr Richard Sheldrake, said the position of regional director for each of the seven regions across the State would be abolished.

In Grafton that position is held by Des Schroder. Others would be offered voluntary redundancy.

Departmental and ministerial officers were unable to say yesterday how many people that would involve ? it depended on how many people were interested in the offer ? but it was part of State Government moves to abolish 5000 public service positions statewide.

Dr Sheldrake said the restructure would: "provide a more efficient, cost-effective service for NSW taxpayers while maintaining front-line staff."

The department defines 'frontline staff' as those people who actually provide services to rural communities, on-the-ground staff who provide advice to farmers.

He said there were no plans 'at this stage' to close offices.

Public Service Association senior industrial officer Stewart Little said he had been given no firm numbers on job losses, but according to the union's calculations, 100 jobs would need to be shed from the seven regions across the state.

"The Government should be coming out and saying what it is doing and what effect it will have," he said.

"There is no more fat left, there is nothing left for them (the government) to cut.

"This will result in cuts to services.

"This would have a major effect in every major regional centre across the state."

The Member for Clarence, Steve Cansdell, is a member of a Coalition with a policy of abolishing 29,000 public service positions if elected to government. But he said he would approach the minister to oppose the downgrading of the Grafton office.

"I really think that is a backward step," he said.

Mr Cansdell said he thought all frontline positions ? positions he described as having direct dealings with the public ? should be maintained.

He expected all positions in the Grafton office would be frontline, but could not say if they would be maintained under a Coalition Government.

He said cuts should primarily be from city offices.

"The natural environment is in the regions, it makes sense to keep staff there," he said.

Clarence Valley Mayor Ian Tiley said there seemed to be no rationale for the cuts.

"Why take the chiefs out?," he said. "This department has been subjected to constant and unwarranted change.

"It mystifies me, and we (the council) will have to fight it. I think we are getting kicked in the teeth."

A spokesman for the Minister for Natural Resources, Ian Macdonald, said he could not estimate how many jobs would go as he had no indication how many would be interested in voluntary redundancy.

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