The National Parks & Wildlife Service of NSW (NPWS) is in its fiftieth year. To “celebrate” the occasion the NSW Government is in the process of re-structuring this important organisation which is responsible for the management of the national parks estate and the protection of our state’s biodiversity.
Politicians and bureaucrats have claimed that the restructure will improve the management of the national parks estate.
How can it when the service’s budget has been drastically cut? How can it when fire-fighting resources and expertise are being depleted? How can it when experienced and well-qualified officers are losing their jobs or being demoted to what are essentially clerical roles at much lower rates of pay?
And what will be the impact of these changes on the Clarence Valley which has an area of 2,262 sq km of the national parks estate in its area ?
Grafton has been an administrative centre for NPWS for many years. That function will be transferred to Coffs Harbour along with some of the positions currently based in the town. Figures on job losses in Grafton vary but it looks to be from seven to nine skilled positions.
One of the major issues relates to the loss of Pest Management Officers (PMOs) around the state. In our region from around Taree to the Queensland border the staffing will be reduced from 3.2 equivalent full time positions to one. And that position will be largely a desk job with a much-reduced salary. This makes no sense at all given the problems in this large area with feral pests such as pigs, foxes and wild dogs as well as the plant pests.
The impacts here and around the state for the proper management of the national parks estate (which includes Nature Reserves as well as National Parks) will be significant. The effects on biodiversity protection will also be significant. And there will be associated impacts on national parks tourism which is important to many local economies including the Clarence economy.
Another major issue from a people perspective rather that an environment perspective is the appalling toll this drawn-out and unfair process is taking on the National Parks officers whose jobs will be lost or who will be demoted. It is very unlikely that the government or the bean-counters running their cost-cutting venture have any concern about this.
It should be remembered that when the government’s budget was brought down in June there was much fanfare about the $4.5 million surplus and what a good job the government was doing in managing the NSW economy. Despite this record surplus, the government is slashing $121 million from the NPWS budget.
Quite obviously the government is NOT doing a good job in either resourcing or managing the NSW national parks estate.
What is very clear to many members of the community who are concerned about protection of the natural environment is that the current NSW government has no understanding about how crucial a healthy natural environment is to the well-being of both humans and other life forms. The natural environment (of which national parks are a very important part) provides important services (such as clean air and clean water) on which we all rely. It is time that the Berejiklian Government and our local member, Chris Gulaptis, woke up to this and abandoned this re-structure.
- Leonie Blain
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 23rd , 2017.