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True heroes

Monday, January 21, 2013
Bush fires
My sincerest thoughts are with those across the country who have been affected by recent bush fires. Fires have ripped through towns, suburbs, homes, farms and forests, destroying lives and livelihoods. The ash that remains stands as a sorrowful legacy of the turmoil that many fires across the nation have caused. Many have and will continue to mourn the terrible effects of this catastrophe. In a time like this it is important to remember those who risk their lives to help others. Thank you to all the volunteer firefighters who selflessly put their lives on the line in order to assist others. These volunteers work tirelessly in dangerous conditions. They are truly heroes. Last week I was pleased to learn that the Federal Government activated emergency natural disaster payments to people in north-west NSW adversely affected by the current bush fire crisis. The NSW RFS Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, and Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, toured the fire-ravaged Coonabarabran region to survey the extent of the damage caused by one of the worst fires in NSW in a decade. The NSW Government also announced that Natural Disaster Declarations Assistance will be made available to areas affected by fire. It's good to see both levels of Government working together in times like these. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of everybody in bush fire prone areas throughout Western NSW to have a bush fire survival plan and to be ready to evacuate in the event of an emergency.

Fire Service Levy
Last week I outlined the facts of the Fire Services Levy review after it had been inaccurately reported in recent Sydney media. The recent coverage of the issue has been misrepresented as objections to the potential changes to funding of the system have been attributed to the Volunteer Fire-fighters, it is however the Union related to the paid employees of the Rural Fire Service that are raising these concerns. This criticism has been soundly denounced by the President of the Volunteer Fire-fighters Association as being inappropriately raised while communities and volunteers are challenged by some of the most dangerous weather and fire conditions in the State's history. Before the election the NSW Government committed to review the funding for emergency services because the current system is unfair and inefficient. The levy is currently passed on when you pay home insurance so there is a disincentive to insure, this means NSW home owners who are either not insured or under-insured do not contribute their fair share of funding of our emergency services, but still receive the same coverage as those who pay full insurance. NSW has the highest rate of non-insurance in Australia with 36% of NSW home owners not taking out home insurance. In last year’s Budget the NSW Government announced it would consult with the community on future funding of emergency services and a 3-month consultation process was then undertaken to ensure all stakeholders could have their say and that is what is happening. The Government has made no final decision about the levy and there is no proposal to change the total level of funds currently provided for fire and emergency services.

Job growth
The latest CENSUS figures show a 5.1% improvement in employment in the Dubbo electorate since the 2006 CENSUS. The statistics obtained from the NSW Parliamentary Research Service show that the Dubbo Electorate is moving in the right direction. The figures confirm that people have confidence to invest and do business in regional NSW and that the Dubbo electorate plays an important role in contributing to our State's financial recovery and sustainability. The positive figures come as the NSW Government recruits for positions in the new Dubbo Crown Lands Business Centre. Five Business Service Officer jobs are available and the position of Manager, Aboriginal Land Claims, has been transferred from Sydney to Dubbo. These roles will work across the community, government and industry to assist the government to manage and develop Crown land to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to regional communities. I encourage anyone interested in a rewarding role with the NSW Government to apply. To get more information on these and other NSW Government positions go to www.jobs.nsw.gov.au. Further employment opportunities will be advertised in the near future.

Seniors
NSW Seniors Week is approaching soon and I'm pleased to welcome funding to the tune of $4,500 to help stage events and activities in the electorate. The NSW Government has allocated more than $175,000 in grants to communities across the State to recognise the outstanding contributions seniors make in the lives of their families and neighbourhoods. Funding has been confirmed for the Dubbo BUG (Bicycle Users Group) for a seniors bike ride, the Dubbo Neighbourhood Centre for an expo, Forbes Shire Council for a luncheon and expo, Narromine Daycare for a concert and luncheon, Eugowra Lions Club for a luncheon and the Parkes and District Community Information and Neighbourhood Centre for a concert. Seniors make a tremendous contribution to our community through volunteering, mentoring and other activities and Seniors Week is a great opportunity to recognise the outstanding work they do.NSW Seniors Week events will be held from 17 to 24 March 2013. For more information visit: www.nswseniorsweek.com.au

Crown reserves
A number of Crown reserves across the local region will receive funding for improvements to their facilities thanks to the NSW Governments Public Reserves Management Fund Program. Crown reserves are wonderful assets valued by local communities and their ongoing success is vital to sports, clubs, business and tourism in regional towns. I'm pleased to see important community assets benefit from the funding. Projects to be funded include: $16,000 to refurbish the Pavilion kitchen, which has been severely damaged by termites at the Eugowra Showground; $8,000 to upgrade electricity supply poles and hardware at the Parkes Showground; $19,000 to refurbish the kitchen and install new floor coverings in the supper room and kitchen at the Rawsonville Recreation Reserve and Hall and $7,000 for maintenance and repairs of the historic Garema Hall, including guttering, external doors and windows. The funding is part of the Government’s $16.9m Public Reserves Management Fund Program.

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