Back to the big smoke: RFS headquarters to stay in Sydney

Parkes and a host of other regional centres in the state have been ruled out of the running to become the new home of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).

NSW Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott has said a new, state-of-the-art headquarters for the RFS is likely to be situated within 40 minutes of Sydney’s CBD.

The announcement comes as a blow to areas like Orange, Parkes, Dubbo and Armidale which had, to differing extents, thrown their hats into the ring as potential hosts of the facility and its hundreds of staff.

Orange City Councillor Reg Kidd first made moves to highlight the city’s suitability in 2012.

Armed with a unanimous vote from his fellow councillors to campaign for the relocation and knowing the Baird Governemnt’s “platform of decentralisation”, Cr Kidd in February met with Mr Elliott to push the city’s cause.

The topic led discussions at the VolunteerFirefighters Association(VFFA) annual general meeting, which this year was held in Parkes in August.

But the minister’s announcement has put paid to anyhopes of housing the planned$14.2 million facility in the Central West.

Mr Elliott said being close to Sydney was “essential” so“key stakeholders”, including NSW Police and National Parks and media outlets “have efficient access” to RFS headquarters.

“It is … essential to have an inbuilt capability to enable media to easily transition to … headquarters and conduct live broadcasts, with travel time an important consideration,” he said.

Former Dubbo deputy mayor Ben Shields said moving the facility to the region would have made good political sense for a government smarting from the dramatic swing in the Orange byelection.

“The Nationalsgot a bloody nose on the weekend of November 12 and they need to look seriously at decentralisation and this is staring them right in the eye,” Mr Shields said.

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