Threats to National Parks and Wildlife Service

Trish Doyle and Penny Sharpe at Govetts Leap in Blackheath.
Trish Doyle and Penny Sharpe at Govetts Leap in Blackheath.

The Shadow Environment Minister, Penny Sharpe, joined Blue Mountains MP, Trish Doyle, at Blackheath this week to raise questions about cuts to National Parks staff and budgets.

Ms Sharpe said the cuts and restructuring threatened front-line personnel.

“This is not just about getting people at the top and that loss of experience. It’s about front of house people in the information centres, administrative people who help with all the work the rangers do,” she said.

While some jobs are threatened, other staff are being told they must take pay cuts, Ms Sharpe said.

Questions asked by Ms Doyle in parliament have revealed NPWS ranger positions have been cut by nearly 20 per cent since the Liberals and Nationals formed government in 2011, falling from 266 to 217 statewide.

It appears the NPWS is now losing 14 regional managers and 15 area managers and, with fewer staff available to manage even greater geographic areas, it will lead to the closure of smaller offices, especially in the regions, Ms Doyle said.

“I am being approached by people, off-the-record, who are terrified about the future of their jobs as they see more and more of their colleagues laid off.

“More than that, as dedicated National Parks staff with a passion for their work, they are concerned about the impacts these cuts will have on the environment and the important conservation efforts of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.”

Ms Sharpe said the cuts were leading to “low morale and fears for the future” among staff and “fears for the service that they have dedicated their lives to”.

“National parks are one of our most precious public assets. We need to be looking after them.”

In addition to the staff cuts over recent years, the MPs said there were suggestions that millions of dollars were slowly being stripped from the National Parks budget, threatening visitor services and facilities, maintenance, fire and hazard reduction operations, threatened species programs, and pest and feral animal control.

“Around the state we are hearing that rangers, field staff, fire-fighters and administrative positions in our national parks are being cut or restructured out of existence,” Ms Sharpe said.

“In places like the Blue Mountains, the national parks estate doesn’t get any more precious – for threatened species, climate change mitigation, tourism and culture, it is a paradigm of why national parks are so valuable, yet we are witnessing all of that now put at risk through these cuts.

“We’ve spent nearly 50 years building up the National Parks and Wildlife Service to be the knowledgeable, well trained, highly regarded service that it represents – and it’s taken the Liberals and Nationals just a few years to completely undermine it.”

Ms Doyle said she had repeatedly asked questions about national parks in Parliament.

“It is clear that this Government is determined to continue stripping National Parks of their staff and funding until it is a shell of its former self.”