National Parks cuts threaten World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains wilderness

In Parliament | 16.08.17

Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe today joined Member for Blue Mountains Trish Doyle to meet with local environment groups and lift the lid on concerns about the impact of significant cuts and restructures being inflicted on staff at the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Previous parliamentary questions asked by Ms Doyle revealed NPWS ranger positions have been cut by nearly 20% since the Liberals and Nationals formed government in 2011, falling from 266 to 217 statewide.

Further reports have recently come to light showing the NPWS is 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.

In addition to the mounting staff cuts over recent years, there are suggestions that millions of dollars are 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.

Adding insult to injury, 2017 should be a year of celebration as it marks the 50th anniversary of the NPWS, but the information on the ground is that staff have been left in shock by the Government’s careless treatment – losing many employees with decades of experience – and morale has hit rock bottom.

The Labor Opposition will take the fight to the Government in Parliament in support of these staff, because a strong NPWS delivers better conservation outcomes, and jobs and tourism opportunities for regional NSW.

Ms Sharpe and Ms Doyle also paid their respects to National Parks and Wildlife Service staff who lost their lives in the line of duty at the memorial located at Govett’s Leap in Blackheath.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe

“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.

“In places like the World Heritage-listed 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.”

Quotes attributable to Member for Blue Mountains Trish Doyle

“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.” 

“Over the past two years I have spoken in Parliament about our National Parks and asked Questions of the Minister for Environment on a number of occasions and 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.”