‘Demoralising’: Perrett blasts $7m rural firey budget cut
THE dry smell and pall of smoke has been hovering over Gympie’s horizon in the past month. Fires have been reported from all directions – in the Mary Valley, Oakview and Glenwood.
It’s that time of year. Bushfires are a natural part of our region’s cycle and have been here for thousands of years.
When nature throws a challenge, we are immensely grateful for the efforts of Gympie’s 28 Rural Fire Brigades making our community safe by protecting lives and property.
We would be in strife without them.
It is shameful when Governments take for granted the work of these volunteers.
Just as the bushfire season is beginning our rural fireys have just been notified that another $7 million will be ripped from their budgets making it a 38 per cent cut in the last two years.
It’s a devastating and demoralising blow.
To slash $20 million from their budget is reckless. The cuts mean less money for training, fire trucks, and equipment.
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They’ve already been through the botched blue card fiasco where 4700 letters were sent to rural fireys threatening termination. The ongoing saga has resulted in thousands of rural fireys volunteers leaving in disgust at how the situation as handled.
It’s not that long ago that the Gympie based general manager of rural fireys said that many brigades believe they are being used a source of free labour by some departments to manage their fire risk.
Fires need an ignition and something to burn.
While drought, wind, and heatwaves can’t be controlled, fuel loads can and should be managed, and firebreaks and access trails maintained.
Government has exacerbated conditions by failing to meet hazard reduction targets.
A record of only completing 54 per cent of planned burns between 2016-219 is nothing to boast about.
In report card parlance that’s barely a pass.
No wonder 72.96 per cent of respondents in my recent electorate wide survey said they were dissatisfied with the level of fire and weed management in State controlled national parks.
It’s not good enough to ask rural fireys volunteers to turn up and then make it even harder for them to do their job.