Tete-a-tete with Troy
It has been a whirlwind few months in the Police and Emergency Services portfolios. I am excited for the Liberals & Nationals’ 2017-2018 Budget to be handed down tomorrow, which delivers significant investments in vital law enforcement and emergency services infrastructure right across regional NSW.
In March, the NSW Police Force welcomed a new Commissioner. The successful candidate, Mick Fuller APM, has taken to his new role with great aplomb. Mick has impressed us all with his straight-talking, no-nonsense approach and his unwavering commitment to community safety.
In May, I was pleased to announce Mr Gary Worboys APM appointment as the inaugural Deputy Commissioner of Police for Regional Field Operations. This appointment will mark the delivery of one of the government’s key commitments as part of the re-engineering of the NSW Police Force. The addition of this new position will ensure regional NSW gets the high quality, targeted policing it deserves.
In June, Michael Barnes, the State Coroner, handed down the findings from the Lindt Café Siege Coronial Inquest. The NSW Government has agreed to all of the recommendations and we will ensure NSW continues to have the toughest counter-terror laws in the country.
Two weeks ago, I opened the new Toronto Police Station and last week it was a pleasure to join Stephen Bromhead in Taree to announce that the NSW Government’s 2017-18 Budget will provide $1.5 million to commence the multi-million dollar upgrade of Taree police station. Before too long I will also join Geoff Provest to open the new Tweed Heads police station.
One of Commissioner Fuller’s biggest challenges is the re-engineering process. As Police Minister, I have given him my full support to re-examine the current policing model, to work closely with the community, the NSW Police Association and other key stakeholders to establish a more flexible and innovative policing model that better reflects the world we live in today.
Since taking on the Emergency Services portfolio, there has been much positive change. The SES has an outstanding new Commissioner, Brigadier Mark Smethurst, who has hit the ground running and is a very positive influence in the organisation. Fire and Rescue NSW has a new Commissioner too in Paul Baxter. Commissioner Baxter has settled into the role very well and together we have already opened brand new Fire Stations in Nyngan, Abermain and the new Fire and Rescue NSW headquarters in Sydney, this Government will continue to invest in regional NSW.
Our firefighters do a tremendous job keeping communities safe across the State. It is always great to see resources allocated to the regions. For example, in April Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson was able to announce that from the end of 2017 the number of Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) firefighters in Tamworth will double, giving the city permanent, 24-hour staffing for the first time ever.
In this year’s budget, I am delighted to announce the Rural Fire Service will receive an allocation of $38 million to fund the use of the massive fixed-wing tankers to help fight major bushfires. During a two-year trial, these air tankers flew over 130 missions on more than 50 fire grounds around NSW, dropping six million litres of retardant on bush and grass fires. These fix-wing bombers perform a crucial task and I had no hesitation backing in this continued support for the RFS.
This year NSW has experienced a number of destructive natural disasters. During the fire season, we recorded the worst conditions ever. February saw the NSW Rural Fire Service and emergency services volunteers and personnel fight tirelessly as more than 1,500 bush fires raged across the State. The Sir Ivan fire around brought with it massive devastation destroying 56 and 199 outbuildings. Many farmers and their families have enormous clean up and restoration bills to pay, and lost generations of stock. The NSW and the Federal Governments have done much to help those affected by the fire. Under the jointly-funded Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA), we triggered Category C disaster assistance payments.
We acknowledge that there is still much to do in the months ahead to get these communities back on their feet. Presently, BlazeAid have deployed some 100 volunteers to help clear some 250km of fencing. They have also replaced approximately 150km of fencing to date. The NSW Government is underwriting the costs of two basecamps used by BlazeAid re-fencing volunteers at Dunedoo and Cassilis.
In March, parts of the North Coast received up to 740mms of rain within 24 hours and subsequently communities in the Lismore and Tweed electorates were hit by the biggest floods in 40 years. Again, we worked closely with the Federal Government to trigger NDRRA assistance for individuals, small business owners, primary producers, and councils who need help to recover from the devastating impact of the floods. This was followed up by two NDRRA Category C assistance payments for small businesses and primary producers worst hit by this disaster.
I have visited both the Sir Ivan fireground and the North Coast numerous times since these devastating events. Every time I visit affected regions, I hear of the bravery, tenacity and professionalism of our emergency services personnel and volunteers. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our first responders. We simply could not recover from these disasters without them.
The second half of 2017 promises to be just as busy as the first, and I look forward to seeing the Police and Emergency Services portfolios go from strength to strength.