Petition demanding more resources for NSW firefighters delivered to politicians
More than 59,000 signatures have been gathered calling for the NSW government to allocate more funding to tackle future bushfire crises.
A petition demanding additional resources for firefighters facing longer, hotter bushfire seasons has been delivered to politicians outside NSW parliament - despite authorities insisting they’re happy with current funding levels.
A small crowd of demonstrators carrying placards gathered in Sydney on Wednesday for the handover of the petition, which has so far gathered more than 59,000 signatures.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge, receiving the petition alongside Labor’s Penny Sharpe and Emma Hurst of the Animal Justice Party, said volunteer firefighters are under serious, unsustainable pressure.
“We’ve heard from the volunteers that they’re in danger of losing their jobs. Their employers can’t keep putting them on indefinite leave without state government support … and where’s the premier? Well, she’s not here,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday attended the Rural Fire Service headquarters for a briefing on the current bushfire threat.
Leighton Drury, state secretary of the Fire Brigade Employees Union, said volunteers could not be expected to keep fighting ever-growing blazes and argued for more professional firefighters.
“Our volunteers are exhausted. They are doing an overwhelming, great job. But should we be expecting them to do this? Well, I say no. Even they’re starting to say no. We need more professional firefighters, not less,” Mr Drury said.
He also claimed there has been a “systematic defunding of fire services in NSW” in the past eight years, including professional firefighter numbers.
Such claims of underfunding have previously been rejected by the Berejiklian government and the premier on Wednesday told reporters she was proud of the “record investment” in emergency fire services.
Despite the petition, RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said resourcing and funding for the organisation had “never been better”.
“Our investments are at record levels. Do we want more in the future? Of course we would, and I’ll be working with government about what that might look like,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
The petition comes a day after a coalition of former fire chiefs slammed the federal government for a lack of leadership amid the crisis.
Former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins said he believed crews in the state were currently well-resourced but climate change was “driving this problem to a place where you simply can’t deal with it”.
The group has called for a national summit at the end of this bushfire season to look at a new strategy to deal with fires - which they argue are inextricably linked to climate change.