Feed­back on fire ser­vice fund­ing

Albany Extra - - News - Tim Ed­munds

The re­view into the Emer­gency Ser­vices Levy and to what ex­tent it could fund a Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice moved to the re­gions this week as feed­back was sought from stake­hold­ers in the Great South­ern.

The Eco­nomic Reg­u­la­tion Au­thor­ity re­leased a draft re­port in July iden­ti­fy­ing a need for greater trans­parency about how the ESL is spent on emer­gency ser­vices and to what ex­tent it could fund a Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice.

Es­tab­lish­ing a Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice was a key rec­om­men­da­tion of the re­view into last year's Yar­loop bush­fire, which de­stroyed al­most 200 prop­er­ties and killed two peo­ple.

The re­view process con­cluded in the south of the State this week with a re­gional visit by the ERA hosted by the Shire of Plan­ta­genet on Mon­day af­ter­noon be­fore a tour of the Nar­rikup Bush­fire Bri­gade.

The re­gional vis­its then moved to the South West on Tues­day.

ERA chair­woman Nicky Cus­worth said speak­ing with re­gional stake­hold­ers was an im­por­tant as­pect of the re­view.

“It’s al­ways re­ally help­ful when we do these in­quiries and talk to stake­hold­ers and talk to the peo­ple who are de­liv­er­ing ser­vices on the ground,” she said.

“Given the na­ture of the is­sues we are deal­ing with, this part of the coun­try seemed a par­tic­u­larly good place to visit.”

Ms Cus­worth said some rec­om­men­da­tions were chal­lenged and ac­cepted dur­ing the meet­ing with makeup and cost of a ru­ral fire ser­vice dom­i­nat­ing dis­cus­sion.

The ERA has found a ru­ral fire ser­vice would cost West Aus­tralians be­tween $4.2 mil­lion to $560 mil­lion ex­tra and would vary de­pend­ing if vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers or ca­reer fire­fight­ers were used.

“We looked at some of the cost­ings of that and we talked about gover­nance as well and how the ESL money is al­lo­cated,” she said.

“So we un­der­stood in the meet­ing that ac­tu­ally any real­is­tic out­come is likely to be be­tween those and also dis­cussed the fact hav­ing done the work on what the var­i­ous cost com­po­nents are, what­ever model the Gov­ern­ment might want to come up with we are now in a po­si­tion to see roughly what that might cost.”

Ms Cus­worth ac­knowl­edged the rec­om­men­da­tion of bush­fire pre­ven­tion rest­ing pri­mar­ily with the prop­erty own­ers, in­clud­ing lo­cal and State Gov­ern­ment agen­cies, had “dis­ap­pointed” some stake­hold­ers.

The dead­line for stake­holder feed­back on the ERA draft re­port and rec­om­men­da­tions is to­day.

The ERA is set to pre­pare a re­port for the Trea­surer by late Septem­ber.

Pic­ture: Lau­rie Benson

Nar­rikup Bush­fire Bri­gade’s War­ren Forbes, Erika Hen­der­son, Eco­nomic Reg­u­la­tion Au­thor­ity chair­woman Nicky Cus­worth and bri­gade’s Kevin Forbes at the Nar­rikup Bush­fire Bri­gade head­quar­ters.

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