NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICE RESTRUCTURE
Dr MEHREEN FARUQI ( 15:50 : 4 ): Today is the Public Service Association Day of Action for National Parks and Wildlife Service [NPWS] staff. The Greens stand in solidarity with them. The National Parks and Wildlife Service is under massive attack from the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government through a spill‑and‑fill restructure that will affect more than 150 jobs. In New South Wales we love our national parks. There are more than 40 million visits to national parks in New South Wales each year, with an overwhelming 94 per cent of visitors being satisfied or very satisfied with their experience.
But where we see magnificent trees and beautiful bush, unique birds such the glossy black-cockatoo or the powerful owl, wildlife such as koalas, kangaroos, eastern water dragons and grey‑headed flying foxes, and opportunities to connect with nature, bushwalk and enjoy the sounds of the rainforest, the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government sees dollar signs and a commodity to be used and abused. That much is plain to see with the commercialisation of public spaces in Sydney Harbour National Park, and no doubt we will soon see the Government’s plan to log the River Red Gums National Parks.
The Government clearly sees National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers, firefighters, ecologists and pest control officers as liabilities, not as the assets they are. They do not see them as protectors of nature with conservation at the heart of their responsibilities—and perhaps that is the exact reason the Government wants to get rid of them. Shamefully, this Government’s actions are making these guardians of threatened species into threatened species themselves. Recently a staff member of the NPWS wrote an open letter on conditions in the NPWS. Going by the pseudonym of Bob, he stated:
The restructure will seriously impact on the ability of the NPWS to deliver any significant conservation outcomes, as well as our ability to provide services in firefighting and maintenance of visitor facilities.
We believe that there are unethical and unfair means being employed by government and management which are driven entirely by continual budget cuts. The current restructure may deliver budget savings but it will be at the expense of staff, the environment and public amenity.
Continued heavy budget cuts over many consecutive years have meant that current operations of the NPWS are unsustainable, and a new Senior Management have been appointed to wield the knife. The option they have chosen is to downgrade the workforce and drive people into lower paid job classifications.
It is worrying that NPWS staff members consider the service to be already so stretched that it can barely perform the functions within its remit. Literally hundreds of jobs will be impacted, severely depleting the experience and expertise of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. For example, 10 pest management officers will be lost, leaving only eight staff to manage weed and pest programs across the State. This Government is penny wise but pound foolish, as the cost of not dealing with invasive weeds and animals now will be tenfold in the future.
The Government claims it is increasing jobs in NPWS, but in reality these jobs will be at a lower pay level, with lower or minimal skill requirements, and created at the cost of demotions, redundancies, resignations and attrition of more skilled and experienced staff. The continuous erosion of NPWS worker numbers explains the glacial pace of sorely needed new national park declarations. It also explains why we still do not have a directions statement for the establishment of new national parks. It explains why this year the budget for land acquisition for national parks, and thus permanent protection, is less than $8 million—that is, one-third of the funding allocated to Local Land Services to administer the so-called “land management reforms”. The Government wants to run our beloved national parks and our valued national parks rangers into the ground.
I am deeply worried about the future of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and it is time to say enough is enough. I support the workers and their invaluable work, I strongly support their right to strike and I support the Public Service Association Day of Action for National Parks and Wildlife Service staff.