Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) (14:20:12): My question is directed to the Minister for Energy and Environment. Yesterday the Deputy Premier blamed the Minister's National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers for contributing to the bushfires by not conducting enough hazard reduction burning. Does the Minister agree with him?
Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Energy and Environment) (14:20:39): I thank the Leader of the Opposition for her question. I start by putting on the public record my appreciation of the outstanding work being done by the brave men and women who are putting themselves in harm's way across our community at this very difficult time. I state also that today is not the day for political pointscoring. There will be plenty of time for a review after the danger has passed. There is plenty of time for a debate to be had about what we can do better and if improvements can in fact be made. Certainly in the National Parks and Wildlife Service we will look to improve our performance and follow up on any recommendations that come from a full review. Where we can do things better, we will.
Members know the incredible danger that people on the front line put themselves in when protecting our community. I acknowledge the over 400 staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service who are on the front line at the moment, fighting fires, defending the community and defending people. They are not just fighting fires that have started in parks; they are helping to protect the community. They are outstanding brave men and women doing an incredible job. As I said, it is disappointing to think that anyone would use these bushfires to push a political agenda. We are in a very serious situation in this State and we have all our firefighters out there on the front line risking their lives. I want to get some facts on the record. Since 2011 we have increased the number of firefighters in the National Parks and Wildlife Service from 1,050 to 1,226. That is an increase of 176 firefighters.
Ms Jodi McKay: Point of order: My point of order is under Standing Order 129. The question related very specifically to comments by the Deputy Premier and whether the Minister agrees with him in regard to National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers contributing to the bushfires.
The SPEAKER: The Minister has addressed that issue and is continuing to be relevant to the question.
Mr MATT KEAN: I just want to get some facts on the record, which is what I am trying to do. The reality is that the National Parks and Wildlife Service last year, in the last fire season, did hazard reduction burns on 137,000 hectares of national parks across New South Wales. That exceeds the State's rolling average that it targets of 135,000 hectares. I will also say that the National Parks and Wildlife Service has contributed over 75 per cent of all hazard reduction burns across New South Wales. That is more than every other single government agency combined, so the service is doing an incredible job. They are doing their bit. I note again that there are 400 National Parks and Wildlife Service staff out on the front line today defending property, defending people and working as part of a concerted effort to keep our communities safe.
I also want to get on the record that this Government has provided the resources for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to help fight these fires. The service has five aircraft and 355 firefighting vehicles. We have committed $125.9 million over four years to upgrade the fire trail network in New South Wales to make it easier for our firefighters to access the areas they need to in order to ensure that we do hazard reduction and can fight these fires where necessary. As I said, last year we back-burnt 137,000 hectares of national park.
Ms Jodi McKay: Point of order: My point of order relates to Standing Order 129. The question was whether the Minister agrees with the Deputy Premier. It is a simple yes or no. Does the Minister agree with the Deputy Premier?
The SPEAKER: The Minister is being relevant to the question. The Minister will continue.
Mr MATT KEAN: What I agree with is the incredible work being done by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to ensure that our community is safe at this time and to ensure that we protect not only our environment but also people and property. We have got 400 firefighters on the front line at the moment. Rather than politicising this we should be doing everything we can to focus on keeping people safe at this difficult time. The danger has not yet passed. It is inappropriate for us to be playing politics at this time. What is appropriate is that we all focus our energy on ensuring that people and property are safe.