High hopes for fire services
A new rural fire service could be “cost neutral” to ratepayers, according to the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades.
Association president Dave Gossage made the claim in Bridgetown last Saturday during a special meeting of the group’s members.
His comments follow an Economic Regulation Authority report, which called for the reform of emergency services levy funding management and estimated the cost of a rural fire service.
“The question they (the ERA) were asked to answer was, could the ESL support the establishment of a rural fire service,” Mr Gossage said. “And the answer is, yes it can.” The ERA’s July 7 draft report found a rural fire service would cost between $4.2 million and $560 million extra, depending on whether it was staffed by volunteers or paid firefighters.
It also said an independent agency — not the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, which benefits from the ESL — should advise the Government on levy revenue and rates.
Mr Gossage said a rural fire service could not be realistically costed until a structure was decided but he described the figure of $560 million as “unrealistic” and “farcical”. The figure was based on information supplied by DFES and its union, he said.
“We’re saying we can bring in a new structure that doesn’t have DFES in it that is cost-neutral,” Mr Gossage said.
The association made a commitment to work with the Government to develop a model that was sustainable and in the long-term community interest.
Mr Gossage hopes to have “something more definitive” in the near future.
The special meeting was held to adopt a new constitution as the association reviews its governance under the Associations Incorporation Act and looks to attain deductible gift recipient status.