NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers will no longer feed police at an anti-coal-seam gas (CSG) protest at Doubtful Creek near Kyogle after an outcry from local firies opposed to CSG.
The use of an RFS catering trailer and several volunteers to provide food and drink to police at the protest site on Tuesday sparked outrage among the protesters, some of whom are RFS volunteers, who said it was a conflict of interest.
But after numerous complaints and media calls, the RFS pulled the pin, saying it would no longer provide catering to the police operation at the Metgasco drilling sites.
‘NSW RFS agrees that this is a contentious local issue that should not involve its volunteers,’ the media statement said.
Yesterday, the RFS defended the move, saying it was providing ‘logistical support’ to police after police asked if they could provide meals on a cost-recovery basis.
RFS northern rivers zone superintendent Michael Brett told Echonetdaily it was ‘not uncommon for other government organisations to assist police during operations’.
‘The NSW RFS has previously provided similar logistical support to the NSW Police for operations such as missing persons searches, or more notably in the recent hunt for fugitive Malcolm Naden.’
APN News reported that one RFS volunteer of almost 30 years resigned in anger and other volunteers joined him in condemning the use of RFS resources in the police operation.
Toonumbar farmer Don Durrant said he was furious at the use of RFS resources to support an industry that most locals were opposed to and that also had the potential to cause fires.
‘If there’s a gas fire here, we’re expected to come and put it out; that means putting our lives and health on the line,’ Mr Durrant told APN News.
Rock Valley resident Adrienne Stones told APN she was reconsidering future donations to the RFS, saying she was ‘a massive supporter of the RFS but this is just a slap in the face to farmers’.
A Doubtful Creek local told Echonetdaily that some local protesters were particularly upset at the Doubtful Creek RFS brigade captain being involved with the catering operation.
But the RFS said he was involved in a ‘private capacity’ and it was ‘not up to the RFS to comment on what they do in their private or business ventures’.