The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has substantially increased the number of senior executives in their ranks while cutting vital field staff over the last financial year.
Senior DELWLP officials were unable to fully explain a loss of 133 full time equivalent field staff across the financial year when questioned recently at Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC).
Member for Euroa and Deputy Nationals leader Steph Ryan has lashed the Andrews Government for cutting field staff, including project firefighters, while employing more people to shuffle paperwork.
“The department’s annual report shows there has been a steady erosion in numbers of frontline staff employed to deliver vital services on the ground,” Ms Ryan said.
“Rural communities are frustrated by the government’s failure to carry out basic weed and pest control. The Andrews Government is the worst neighbour in the state.
“Instead of employing yet more people to write policies and media releases, it should be investing in the frontline staff tasked with managing public land.”
Ms Ryan said Labor needed to explain what frontline roles were no longer being fulfilled after such a significant reduction in field staff.
“The Andrews Government continues to hide behind COVID, rather than take responsibility for such a concerning neglect of crucial field work,” Ms Ryan said.
“DELWP has not completed a single flood study over the past financial year and I can’t help but think this is a direct result of so many field staff either being lost to the department or shoved behind desks.
“Summer is a very demanding time for many regional communities and yet we are seeing jobs slashed in a department whose responsibilities include bushfire risk management.
“Proper fire and flood planning are essential to the confidence and safety of regional Victorians who are disproportionately affected by natural disasters.
“With so much uncertainty and variation in climate patterns set to become the norm, Labor has shown it is only about lip service rather than helping communities meet these challenges on the ground.
“The last thing we need is more bureaucrats and executives when there is so much crucial work to be done within DELWP’s scope.
“The Andrews Government must come clean and tell Victorians what services have been curtailed as a result of these cuts.”