Fire re­port ad­vises levy fund change

Manjimup-Bridgetown Times - - News - Karen Hunt

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.

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