28 Dec 2019

NSW Minister heads off on European holiday as bushfire crisis continues

4:02 pm on 28 December 2019

A week after the furore over Scott Morrison's Hawaiian holiday, NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott is leaving the country for a trip to the UK and France.

(L to R) New South Wales state Parliamentary Secretary David Elliott, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, New South Wales state president of the RSL, Don Rowe, and Federal Minister Josh Frydenberg

NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott says he will be briefed twice a day on the bushfire crisis while he is on holiday in Europe. Photo: AFP

Elliott's office said the Minister would not cancel his trip to Europe, despite the ongoing bushfire crisis.

His office would not disclose how long he would be out of the country, but said his responsibilities would be given to NSW Prisons Minister Anthony Roberts in the interim.

"Bushfire-affected communities and firefighters are always at the front of my mind during this difficult time in NSW," Elliott said.

"I will continue to receive two briefings each day from the RFS [Rural Fire Service] Commissioner.

"If the bushfire situation should demand it, I will return home."

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he did not expect Elliott's trip to have any impact on operations.

"I'll be maintaining contact with Minister Elliott while he's away and I will be maintaining a very close relationship with the acting Minister, Anthony Roberts, and [it] won't stop our work here in NSW with the firefighting effort," he said.

Fitzsimmons said cooler conditions this week had offered a window of opportunity to establish and consolidate containment lines and carry out tactical backburning.

Firefighters conduct back-burning measures to secure residential areas from encroaching bushfires in the Central Coast, some 90-110 kilometres north of Sydney on December 10, 2019. -

Tactical backburning is continuing in New South Wales as the region braces for another spell of hot temperatures. Photo: AFP

The fires of greatest concern remain the Gospers Mountain fire, north-west of Sydney which has burned through more than 500,000 hectares; the Green Wattle Creek fire in the Southern Highlands; and the Currowan fire further south between Nowra and Batemans Bay.

With the warmer temperatures returning today through until Tuesday, firefighters will again be facing a challenging environment.

"We're not expecting the catastrophic conditions like we've seen in the last few weeks and few months," Fitzsimmons said.

"But it's certainly going to be another tough period, with temperatures up into the 40s, very dry air, very low humidity and the winds turning back around from the west and the north-west."

Elliott's departure comes after the prime minister controversially took his family to Hawaii despite the national bushfire crisis.

He was forced to cut his trip short by two days and has since been touring several bushfire-affected communities.

Morrison's office had initially kept his travels a secret, but the prime minister said he "deeply regretted" any offence caused and apologised for what he described as the "great anxiety" caused by his absence.

Bushfire conditions around the state eased on Friday, with 69 advice-level blazes burning in NSW. Thirty-one are not yet contained but there are still more than 1000 firefighters on the ground.

This handout photograph taken and released on December 23, 2019 by the Australian Prime Minister's Office shows Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison flying over bushfires in an Australian Defence Force helicopter in New South Wales.

Since cutting short a much-criticised holiday in Hawaii, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been flying over some of the areas affected by the bushfires as well as visiting evacuation centres. Photo: AFP / Australian prime minister's office


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