NSW government commits AU$192m to arm firefighters with new equipment

This will include upgrades to the aerial fleet, existing emergency infrastructure, and Fires Near Me app.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The New South Wales government has announced it will invest AU$192 million over five years in new firefighting equipment such as night-time aerial fleet and upgrades to the local emergency infrastructure to better support firefighters during bushfires.

The funding is the state government's response to the independent NSW bushfire inquiry that underscored a need to equip firefighters with more advanced technology, such as drones, remote sensors, data science, and artificial intelligence, to help them better understand, model, and predict bushfire behaviour, and respond more quickly.

A total of 76 recommendations were made and the state government have accepted them all.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said the AU$192 million will be allocated to protecting life, property, and supporting our emergency management personnel.

"We are committed to continuing to protect the people of NSW and are funding a range of initiatives to support frontline firefighters, extending hazard reduction works, as well delivering better equipment, and support for the natural environment," Elliott said. 

"We worked closely with frontline agencies to identify priorities to address key recommendations arising from the inquiry. There is no length we won't go to safeguard communities from disaster."

Read more: Optus and ANU to throw satellites, drones, and robotics at Australian bushfires

The package will be divvied up so that AU$8.3 million will be used to extend the existing integrated dispatch system for the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), AU$5.4 million will be used to upgrade the RFS aerial fleet and training facilities, and AU$2.5 million for improvements to the RFS Fires Near Me app.

The largest portion of AU$36 million will be dedicated to a new first responder mental health strategy for emergency services. Meanwhile, AU$17 million will be allocated to retrofit the NSW RFS and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service vehicles and replace Fire and Rescue NSW tankers, and AU$23 million will go towards additional personal protective clothing for frontline firefighters.

Another AU$9.5 million will fund initial priority works for the fire trail network and AU$2.85 million to deliver critical equipment for 31 emergency operation centres across the state.

The Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) has welcomed the additional funding.

"There is also a significant funding commitment to ensure that all frontline firefighters will be issued with two sets of personal protective clothing. While this has been a long time coming, we're thrilled with the result," RFSA president Brian McDonough said.

Elsewhere, the state government has announced it will be migrating all 82,500 active registered NSW government suppliers to its newly developed buy.nsw supplier hub, a single platform designed to make it easier for businesses to register to sell to government.

"For a business, the supplier hub is a dashboard providing them with access to all procurement related actions. The dashboard allows businesses to update their information, edit their profile and view their opportunities in a single place," Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said.

"For a government department, the supplier hub offers a complete list of all the suppliers who have registered to do business with NSW Government. It is easy to navigate the website and shows a complete business profile."

He added that the hub would help government departments find and engage with more Aboriginal, small-to-medium, and startup enterprises.

Further, the state government has launched its liquor licence manager portal to allow liquor businesses access to a single dashboard that gives them real-time view of all liquor licences they hold and the ability to pay for their annual licence fees online.

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the rollout of the portal will reduce wait times of up to six weeks and digitise paper applications.

"We've put licence and other relevant industry information in one convenient location so that licensees have a bird's-eye view of their obligations," he said. "Gone are the days of needing to print a form, fill it out, and post it. Licensees can now modify licences online in response to the pandemic and complete bulk payments for hundreds of licences in a few simple clicks."

Both platforms align with the state government's "Beyond Digital" strategy that was announced last November.

"Whether you're having an experience in education and then you need to move across to health, then you need to move across to the communities, we want to make sure as people move across, it is a seamless experience, rather than having disjointed and sub-optimal engagements with various agencies," Dominello told ZDNet at the time. 

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