The Newfoundland and Labrador government is being criticized for cuts to its waterbomber service.

The cuts were part of the 2012 budget, but went virtually unnoticed until the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce raised the issue.

The chamber claims five pilot positions are being eliminated, plus two maintenance staff at the provincial government's air services division in Gander.

The chamber's transportation chair, Darrin Murray, notes the government had assured the public there would be no cuts to front-line services.

"Our understanding was that there would be no cuts to [those] services — and it does appear that there are cuts to front-line services in the waterbomber situation in our province," said Murray.

Meanwhile, government says the chamber has it wrong. Only three positions are going, because they will be retiring an aircraft later this year.

Transportation Minister Paul Davis said the department is right-sizing its crews.

"So we're having a pilot's position, a co-pilot's position and a mechanics position adjusted as a result of that."

The cuts come after the provincial government recently spent $120 million on four new waterbombers.