A “WELL-oiled” response to the weekend’s bushfires justified the NSW Rural Fire Service being located in Sydney, according to Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant.
Government again copped criticism last week after Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ Orange MP Philip Donato asked why the service’s head office, and associated jobs, would not be relocated to the bush when the current lease at Lidcombe is up in 2018.
But Mr Grant said the current metro headquarters allowed the service to host eight government agencies on Saturday and Sunday, allowing emergency groups to co-locate easily, and to broadcast and communicate more effectively with media.
“The location of the RFS headquarters means it is able to quickly and readily respond to events like those we saw over the weekend,” Mr Grant said.
Regional councils and regional volunteer organisations had lobbied government since 2015 to bring the office over the Great Divide to better fit its ‘rural’ moniker, and to deliver more jobs to regional towns.
In December Mr Grant’s predecessor David Elliott dashed those hopes and declared the NSW Rural Fire Service would instead move to a state-of-the art facility at Olympic Park at Homebush.
The Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers Party took up the cause again this month, with Mr Donato and arguing a the relocation of the Department of Primary Industries to Orange was a successful precedent for decentralisation.
MLC Robert Brown also said moving the service bush would also save government money in Sydney rent, while modern technology would bridge the distance between the city.
Mr Grant said it was essential for the headquarters to be convenient to major media outlets, operational stakeholders, and support agencies.
“During peak operational times the State Operations Centre within headquarters can swell to over 200 multi-agency personnel,” he said.
Almost 70 per cent of Rural Fire Service staff work in regional offices and local fire control centres
Mr Grant said government will continue looking at other opportunities for investment in emergency services infrastructure and operations across regional NSW.