Environment suffers from more suits, less boots

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, has called on the Andrews Labor Government to reset its environmental priorities after it was revealed field staff in the environment department were cut while office-based staff increased dramatically.

Speaking after raising questions at last week’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) hearings, Mr O’Brien said the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) annual report revealed the true focus of Labor’s environmental management.

The DELWP annual report for 2020-2021 showed that the full-time equivalent number of field staff was cut by 133, but the number of office-based public servants rose by 444.

In addition, the Department added a further 20 highly paid executives in just one year.

“While this Department also looks after energy, planning and other matters, it’s alarming that the agency most responsible for managing our public land is reducing the focus on work on the ground in favour of more office staff.

“I get more complaints about management of public land than just about any other issue.

“Whether it’s the lack of fuel reduction burning, the issue of weed and feral animal management in national parks or indeed the recovery of Gippsland communities from bushfires and storms, this is a critical area for the government to focus on.

“It’s concerning that the budget has increased dramatically for the Department and more and more office staff are being employed, but those that do the environmental work on the ground, including seasonal firefighters, have actually been reduced.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, says the State Government’s approach to public land management is wanting.

“The Andrews Government is good at making big environmental announcements, but not so good at delivering practical environmental works.

“This is nowhere better emphasised than by the appalling Parks Victoria recovery efforts from the Black Summer bushfires. We learnt last week that a bridge at Croajingolong National Park won’t be rebuilt until four years after the fire passed.

“That would never be acceptable in Melbourne and it shouldn’t be acceptable in country Victoria either.

“The Andrews Labor Government needs to get the focus back on managing our land and less on public servants in city high-rise towers.

“We need more boots and less suits – not the other way around.”

Stay up-to-date

Subscribe to Danny’s regular newsletter to stay informed about issues relating to Gippsland South.