NPWS workers concerned for the future
FIRES, pest and vegetation control were common points of concern among Clarence Valley community members protesting a job restructure at the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Residents came out in force as part of a combined NSW-wide protest against the proposal to amalgamate the Clarence Valley North and South NPWS districts and move the head office to Coffs Harbour.
One local NPWS worker, who asked not to be named, said the headquarters of a new branch would extend from the Camden Haven to the Queensland border with Grafton being the geographic centre.
"We've got the best facilities, a government office block with fast internet speeds, and it's being deserted,” the worker said.
The NPWS worker said the loss of jobs would also impact on the ability of the service to do their job.
"We're losing high paid specialist jobs that were critical for the National Parks management, highly skilled fire-trained staff because we are a fire authority and we need to have crew leaders and divisional commanders and incident commanders to ensure our obligation as a fire authority are met, but somehow it's disappearing,” they said.
"I'm really disappointed and concerned about the future of National Parks.”
An Office of Environment and Heritage spokesperson said NPWS was restructuring to ensure there were resources on the ground to meet visitor needs, land management responsibilities and conservation goals as demand for services grew.
"Across NSW the restructure will deliver a net increase to staffing levels to ensure NPWS can continue to meet ongoing and future demands,” they said.
"By reinvesting funds from the consolidation of our executive and management layers into employing more frontline employees, the new structure has an additional 119 full time equivalent roles when compared to the current budgeted structure.”
Clarence Valley councillors Greg Clancy and Karen Toms spoke at the protest to show their support and council's support for the NPWS workers. Cr Clancy said councillors unanimously voted at the last meeting to support them.
"The overall numbers, as we learnt, are not the only issue here, but also the fact that there are various people of different grades that are going to be losing their jobs and being replaced by people at the base level. That is a real concern,” he said.
Clarence Valley MP Chris Gulaptis stated on Tuesday that he felt the Public Service Association's claims were dishonest.
"Far from having a negative impact on the Clarence Valley, the changes will improve services over time,” Mr Gulaptis said.
PSA northern region organiser Arsen Pugh said they were overwhelmed by the community's support for the NPWS.
"Once you cut pest management officers, that means that wild dogs and wild pigs can get out of control and it's going to have a massive impact on farmers and it's going to have an impact by getting rid of some of the most experienced fire mangers we have,” he said.