Australia's National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has welcomed the timely arrival of a new helicopter to boost its capacity and help frontline firefighters prepare for and defend against bushfires.
The Airbus H125 helicopter, with its customised avionics, winch, radios and other specialised operational and safety equipment, joins four similar aircraft operated by ParkAir, the NPWS air wing.
Environment Minister Matt Kean says the $5.6 million aircraft is yet another demonstration of the Australian government's response to last year's New South Wales Bushfire Inquiry: "We have increased the firefighting capacity of NPWS to record levels, and this aircraft will be critical in supporting those frontline NPWS staff to keep us safe and manage an ever increasing parks network. It is essential that NPWS has all the tools it needs to adequately manage the parks estate and an elevated risk of bushfire."
NPWS recently recruited and trained an additional 125 frontline firefighters, creating a dedicated Bushfire Risk and Evaluation Unit and improved its fleet safety with emergency defibrillators.
The helicopter will also be used to support hazard reduction burns. Over the eight years prior to the 2019-20 fires, NPWS conducted around 79 per cent of all hazard reduction burning in New South Wales, often in collaboration with the NSW Rural Fire Service and other agencies.
Other applications for this new helicopter include pest management, baiting and weed spraying, wildlife surveys and observation and construction work.