FORMER Orange councillor Jeremy Buckingham has dropped a push to relocate the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) headquarters to Orange, and has accused Cr Reg Kidd of not doing his homework on the proposal.
Last month, all councillors backed Cr Kidd’s motion to lobby the state government to investigate decentralising the service and Mr Buckingham committed to raising the issue in State Parliament in his role as a member of the Legislative Council.
But he has since backed away from the “ridiculous motion” after learning the service’s purpose-built Homebush Bay headquarters was built in 2004.
“The RFS has the most comprehensive and state-of-the-art facility in the world,” he said.
“He [Cr Kidd] was suggesting they were in a poor facility.
Mr Buckingham said the Sydney headquarters was well-equipped and included the largest TV screen in the southern hemisphere.
“I can’t see how Reg could not have known the facility existed. To say he visited the facility is absolute rubbish. If I’d moved a motion [in Parliament], I and Orange City Council would’ve been laughed out of town,” he said.
An RFS spokesman said more than 70 per cent of its staff were based in regional areas, while the rest were based in Homebush at the purpose-built facility leased by the department.
"We're probably one of the most decentralised government organisations there is," he said.
But Cr Kidd has stood by his push for decentralisation, accusing Mr Buckingham of grabbing a headline and big-noting himself before turning to jelly.
“They might have built the Taj Mahal at Homebush Bay, but we’ve got people all over the place,” he said.
Cr Kidd rejected suggestions that he had not visited the headquarters or spoken to any Sydney-based RFS staff, saying he had broached the subject with senior RFS staff, NSW Farmers representatives and the Local Government and Shires Association, with many supporting the move.
Deputy premier Andrew Stoner and member for Orange Andrew Gee also did not rule out the proposal when asked by Cr Kidd.
“Orange would not be a laughing stock. We’re a very progressive city,” Cr Kidd said.
He said similar criticism was levelled at the decentralisation of the Department of Primary Industries when it was relocated to Orange.
Despite his change of heart, Mr Buckingham said Orange should still look for opportunities to decentralise departments to the area.