Jobs to go at Office of Water despite $500m funds boost
June 11, 2012
Jobs to go … NSW Office of Water to cut 50 jobs.
THE state government plans to cut jobs at its water management body, in spite of a federal government promise to pump millions into major water infrastructure projects across NSW.
Last week the NSW Office of Water told staff it would cut 50 jobs. The Public Service Association of NSW believes staff at risk include scientists, planners and policy experts. The announcement follows a round of 17 voluntary redundancies in March.
”They are getting rid of hands-on, on-the-ground people who are responsible for managing programs and working with communities,” said the assistant general secretary of the PSA, Steve Turner. ”There is a failure to recognise that there are a lot of important frontline workers that aren’t necessarily police, nurses or teachers.”
Mr Turner said some of those targeted were specialist staff responsible for implementing the Murray-Darling Basin plan. ”When the Murray-Darling plan was first proposed, there was huge community outrage,” he said. ”The workers at risk made sure those voices were heard. Those communities along the river must suffer as a result of these job losses. They won’t have frontline staff working with them to implement the plan.”
The NSW Commissioner for Water, David Harriss, said the affected staff were not generally working on the Murray-Darling plan. The affected positions were ”either not high priority or can be delivered in a different manner”. Staff in these positions would be redeployed or eligible for redundancy.
The job losses are believed to be part of a planned 10,000 job cuts across the public service. The announcement coincides with an injection of $500 million in federal funding for water infrastructure projects across the state.
Mr Turner said the Office of Water was also expecting more funding from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal from the next financial year, partly as a result of increased water management charges placed on irrigators.
”This increase in funding recognises that the office has more activities and more responsibilities, yet at the same time they are cutting the staff who will implement those programs,” Mr Turner said. ”After a massive period of drought then floods, water management has become an extreme focus of government, and yet at the very same time, the frontline people responsible for water management are being cut.”
Mr Harriss said the $500 million in funding was mostly for capital works and measures that would recover water for the environment. ”There may be some money for staff to implement these projects,” he said.
The restructure will also mean the relocation of about 50 staff from Sydney to regional centres. Mr Harriss said the restructure would make the office more efficient and lead to greater interaction with farmers and industry. ”It will provide a significant boost to regional NSW. As the NSW Office of Water is responsible for regional service delivery of water management functions, it is important staff be located in areas close to the issues and to be able to work closely with the industry and stakeholders.”