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RFSA refutes blanket adoption of Wambelong Fire Inquiry recommendations

Friday, 07 August 2015

 A number of recommendations made by the Wambelong Fire Inquiry have been refuted by the NSW Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) prior to the government's response expected on 20 August.

After consulting with its members, amongst them, many who were involved with the fire that broke out in the Warrumbungle National Park in January 2013, the Association provided a submission to government in response. 

In its submission, the RFSA provided support, additional background, suggestions and comments to the majority of the recommendations. It however disagrees with a number of recommendations made.

The RFSA endorses that the NSW RFS headquarters should remain within the Greater Sydney metropolitan region. Whilst it acknowledges the lobbying from numerous regional councils across the state for relocation for reasons of economic development, it believes greater benefits for the Service, its members, and the community of NSW will be maintained by retaining a location within the Sydney basin.

"The Service already has an established network of regional and district offices across the state. The current NSW RFS organisational structure is like a wheel, with the hub (NSW RFS HQ) at the central location for government, media and other response agencies in NSW, and with the spokes (regional/district offices) branching out into and servicing the prime areas of the state, " said Ken Middleton, Acting RFSA President.

"The Greater Sydney Basin has the infrastructure, provides a central transport hub for travel from both around the state and interstate, and a move of the HQ could result in a loss of operational capacity, experience and knowledge." 

"There are numerous agencies and representative associations, that have rural areas and members as their primary focus, and continue to operate successfully with a head office in  Sydney."

The RFSA also refutes the recommendation in the Wambelong report that suggested the volunteers of the NSW RFS require a legitimate advocacy organisation representing their interests on policy and operational matters, for the RFSA is that organisation.

"The RFSA is the officially recognised representative organisation of the volunteers of the NSW Rural Fire Service. It has a powerful voice based on volume of members and a constructive approach to all fire-fighting issues," stated Mr Middleton.

"We know that as responders to emergencies, it is important for our members to feel they have a voice, are represented, are supported and are unified in their efforts to protect the community.

"The RFSA provides and supports these values with an established structure, and a culture and expertise in channelling grass roots knowledge to government so it can be successfully implemented in protecting the community of NSW."