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October 4, 2022

Sending firefighters to Ballina for training ‘crazy’, says union sec

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Funding to investigate and upgrade the Bruxner Highway between Goonellabah and Wollongbar has been allocated by the Federal and NSW State governments.

The Fire Brigade Employees Union says the NSW government has cut $13 million from Fire and Rescue NSW funding.

A firefighters’ union representative has confirmed the organisation told Tweed Heads workers not to leave their station closed for a day to attend training in Ballina last week.

‘Really, the training could have occurred in the Tweed area,’ Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) State Secretary Leighton Drury said, ‘to take a fire truck about a hundred kilometres south to Ballina seems crazy to us’.

Mr Drury said Lismore workers had to train outside their area for the day.

Earlier, the Northern Rivers zone commander, Superintendent Greg Lewis, told Echonetdaily firefighters ‘wouldn’t have left Tweed Heads unprotected’.

‘We have retained firefighters from Tweed Heads, Banora Point, Kingscliff and Ballinga that would have protected Tweed Heads residents in the event of a fire’, Mr Lewis said.

Funding cuts likely to leave firefighters short-staffed, says union

But Mr Drury said leaving residents in the care of casually employed firefighters for the day was inappropriate, regardless of how skilled the workers were.

‘You need the permanents and the retainers, they work together perfectly,’ he said, ‘once you take one out of the system you’ve got a reduced capability’.

‘Our retainers do a wonderful job up there but you know it’s about a mix between the two.’

Mr Drury said the NSW government had cut $13 million from Fire and Rescue NSW (FR NSW) in its recent budget announcement.

The union secretary said there was no mention of the cuts in the lead-up to the state election back in March.

He said while no job cuts had been announced so far, cuts would likely come in the form of reduced fill-ins when workers are on leave.

‘You’ve gotta basically find the cuts in labour expenses,’ he said, ‘you’ll run with a possibly reduced crew’.

Retained, or casually employed firefighters, worked on-call and Mr Drury said the arrangement meant those workers could be ‘at their primary employment or at home or doing day to day stuff’ when asked to provide backup for FR NSW.

‘That means they’ve got to get to the station, get changed, get ready and go,’ he said.

Will Kingscliff get a new station?

The union secretary said a new fire station for Kingscliff was announced earlier this year but so far there was no funding for it.

Nationals Member for Tweed Geoff Provest was asked for comment.

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  1. Seems like lots was cut after the election without signalling any intention to do so. Only took six days to abolish the environment department, but plenty of money after privatising electricity to spend on things that we really need, like stadiums for Sydney. Cuts to Fire and Rescue. Massive cuts to National Parks. No plans let alone money for recycling plants, renewable energy or combatting climate change!

  2. This is a typical example of the insidious creep of neo liberal policies. Run down and underfund government departments and what do you have? Private enterprise offering to take up the slack. And before you know it Serco or some other global big player (private equity fund) will be employing undertrained, unqualified staff at $7 an hour to fight fires only between 9 – 5.with a garden hose. Overtime is too expensive! 457 visas for fire fighters!

    Ignore the implications at your peril and at the expense of living wages for all and the environment.

    It is immoral and unethical to put profits before people.

    And please think before you vote at the next election be it local, state or federal.


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