Fire report advises levy fund change
THE Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades has welcomed the release of the Economic Regulatory Authority’s final report on the Emergency Services Levy.
The association supported “many” of the 316-page report’s 27 findings, president Dave Gossage said, but would need to look at them in detail.
State Treasurer Ben Wyatt tabled the ERA report on Thursday after receiving it from the authority on September 19.
Mr Wyatt said the State Government would now consider the report, commissioned by the former government, which incorporated findings from extensive public consultation.
“The McGowan Labor Government has already indicated that there is room to improve the transparency of the oversight of the ESL,” he said.
The report was commissioned after the 2016 Yarloop-Waroona bushfires to look at how levy funding could be better spent, whether it should fund a rural fire service and what the costs might be.
One key finding volunteers have backed is that the levy money should be managed independently, not by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
The department collected $323 million in ESL funds in 2015-16, the report states, of which $36 million went to local governments and the volunteer marine rescue groups.
“If the Office of Emergency Management is to be the organisation that undertakes the independent advisory and oversight role, it should be separated from DFES,” it said. Costs of a rural fire service would range from $4.2 million extra to $560 million extra a year depending on whether staff were volunteers or career firefighters.
This equated to an extra $2.41 extra a year for residential ratepayers, based on the volunteer model, up to $362.74 extra a year for a career firefighter service.