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.