THE state Opposition has reacted angrily to the loss of 120 jobs from within the Rural Fire Service (RFS).
The Public Service Association of NSW (PSA) has also chimed in, saying the loss of the RFS jobs will push the toll of public-sector job losses in regional NSW to more than 1200.
PSA industrial officer Geo Papas said it was a blatant effort by the NSW government to cut public-sector positions in the bush in order to fund the North West Rail Link in north-western Sydney.
He said the Office of Environment & Heritage had been ordered to cut 350 jobs in a three-year period, including 170 to 180 jobs in the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS).
This is of major concern to Tamworth RFS community safety officer Peter Roffe, who told The Leader yesterday that when a fire was declared a section-44 fire, i.e., "when the capacity of the local council and RFS is not sufficient to fight the fire", the chief member of the so-called instant management team formed to manage it could be called up from either the RFS, NPWS, Fire & Rescue NSW or Forests NSW.
Mr Papas said the jobs lost from the NPWS and the RFS would cripple the ability of the organisations to fight section-44 fires.
"We're very concerned for a lot of those communities in those (rural) areas," Mr Papas said.
He said the 1200 job cuts, including 67 from the Office of Water, 175 from Crown Lands and 26 from Forests NSW, would create greater problems with the control of fires, pests and weeds because people with local knowledge would go under the cuts and because manpower would be reduced to tackle the problems.
"It's going to filter down," he said.
"Despite all the promises (the state government) has made, they're attacking public-service positions in rural and regional areas."
Further, the RFS area boundaries would be cut, from 66 to 50, "which means there'll be a reduction in area managers by 15 positions" or 20 per cent of the RFS area managers across NSW, Mr Papas said.
Other cuts included 108 jobs to be cut at Grafton Jail and 101 WorkCover jobs to be relocated from regional NSW to Sydney.