Twist in government’s Cronulla closure plans

THE NSW government’s plan to close the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre has met further hurdles as more staff oppose relocation. And in a puzzling development, it has been reported that the government has offered Cronulla staff the option of relocating to other Sydney-based facilities.

As previously reported, 147 staff from the centre stood to lose their jobs when research work was to be relocated to existing NSW Fisheries facilities at Port Stephens, Coffs Harbour and Nowra. Staff had previously been offered relocation at these centres, an impractical solution for many with families based in the Cronulla region (Related story here).

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald this week, less than a quarter of the centre’s staff have indicated a willingness to be relocated to the proposed regional centres and are now being offered positions within Sydney and Wollongong.

The Herald reported that centre staff were angry that the facility was being closed under the guise of decentralisation, only for them to be offered new jobs in the same city.

Fishing World contacted the office of Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson this week for further comment on these issues. We received the following written response from the minister today:

“It is currently anticipated that more than 80 per cent of positions from the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre will be decentralised to regional locations.

“Consistent with our commitment to ensure the current level of services enjoyed by fishers and industry are maintained in the future, the decentralisation project is being conducted in a measured way to suit the needs and demands of all our fishing stakeholders.

“The NSW Government has no plans to sell the site and all options will be considered for the future use of the site, taking into account its historical and cultural significance.

“The NSW Department of Primary Industries is continuing to work with staff on the decentralisation of the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre.

“The process is on track and proceeding well according to the original 12-18 month decentralisation timeframe.

“The NSW Government is committed to providing opportunities to regional communities under its Decade of Decentralisation policy and will ensure NSW fisheries positions are situated in the regions and can provide services where the majority of stakeholders are located.

“What this means for NSW Fisheries experts working on Sydney-based fisheries programs is that they will remain based in Sydney. The Sydney-based Bather Protection Shark Meshing Program and the Sydney Harbour Bull Shark Tagging Program, along with key recreational education services, will remain based in the Sydney area.

“The NSW Fishcare Volunteer Program, which is delivered across the State by a number of Education Officers, will also continue to have a presence in Sydney.

“Co-location of Fisheries NSW positions with universities in Sydney (including Sydney Institute of Marine Science) and University of Wollongong is being explored to further enhance collaboration between tertiary centres and Government to deliver better outcomes for aquatic resource management in NSW.

“Fisheries NSW staff are among the best in their field, anywhere in the world and the NSW
Government is determined to retain the valuable expertise and knowledge of the staff and
considerable effort is continuing to be made to minimise loss of valuable expertise.

“Generous relocation entitlements are available to staff who do wish to be part of this project and  who wish to continue to deliver valuable services to the NSW fishing community.

“These may include special leave, travelling and accommodation expense, temporary
accommodation, support for relocation and property transactional cost provisions.

“The process has involved extensive consultation with staff to help ensure functional needs for Fisheries NSW are met, stakeholders will continue to receive high levels of service once the relocation is complete, and, where possible, individual staff circumstances are taken into account.

“It is great to see that some staff have already moved and many others have indicated a willingness to do so.” 

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