As Prime Minister Scott Morrison offers thoughts and prayers to those ravaged by severe bushfires across NSW, let’s not forget that his Liberal Party colleagues in the state government slashed tens of millions of dollars from state fire services just this year.
In the latest state budget, $12.9 million in expenses was cut from Fire & Rescue NSW, while the Office of NSW Rural Fire Services — a service run by volunteers — lost $26.7 million in expenses.
Byron Bay, which is currently being torn apart by fires, was also promised $5.85 million for a new fire station in Kingscliff. The funding has yet to arrive.
The cuts were all part of a larger $3.2 billion shake-up in the public sector, which saw thousands of jobs, bonuses and long-service leave entitlements lost.
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Here are some of the ways state fire services could have spent those missing millions.
- The annual salary of 488 qualified firefighters, or 384 station officers
- Almost 70 new “Class 3 Pumper” trucks, heavy fire engines for both metro and regional areas which cost around $580,000 each
- 115 4WD fire trucks to reach fires in difficult terrain, worth $350,000 each
- Almost 50,000 fire-protective helmets at $818 each
- 123,100 flame resistant rescue coveralls at $329 each
- 10,739 gas exposure testing kits at $3,771 each
- The annual salary of 260 superintendents, or 241 chief superintendents.