NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighters have been given greater powers to close roads in the event of fire emergencies under the Emergency Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2023.
The approval removes a requirement for the RFS to seek permission from Transport for NSW to close roads and will see a return to the previous arrangement when the RFS only needed permission for closures relating to rail corridors.
A government release says that previously, under the Rural Fires Act 1997, Transport for NSW was listed as a ‘rail authority’, which meant the RFS had to seek permission for emergency road closures even if they weren’t associated with the operation of railways.
It says identifying whether a road was under the control of Transport for NSW was an issue for the RFS and had previously caused operational complications.
Under the new legislation, the RFS is only required to notify Transport for NSW in a timely manner if a road is closed.
Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said the move was a sensible one that removes a burdensome requirement for the RFS.
“We have already seen the early signs of a challenging fire season, with serious fires in the north and south of the state, which have sadly resulted in the loss of three lives,” he said.
“This bill removes a requirement that was, in the first place, an unintended consequence of a legislative change. It makes sense to change it back.
“I am very proud of the work the more than 70,000 RFS volunteers do, and we are making sure they won’t be held up by an unnecessary administrative hurdle.”
Original Article published by Andrew McLaughlin on PS News.