High hopes for fire ser­vices

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - Karen Hunt

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.

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