RFS says don't mess with Fire and Emergency Services Levy

Rural Firefighters have asked the State Government to not mess with the Fire and Emergency Services Levy (FESL).

In contrast, the Hilltops Council has committed to working with the Government to find an equitable solution to the FESL dilemma.

The levy was due to start being charged on rates notices based on unimproved land values rather than insurance premiums on July 1, until Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced it would be deferred. 

Backflip: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has sought to find a "better and fairer" way of collecting the fire and emergency services levy. Photo: SMH.

Backflip: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has sought to find a "better and fairer" way of collecting the fire and emergency services levy. Photo: SMH.

NSW Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) President Ken Middleton said any review must not trigger changes to the amount of money which has been guaranteed for rural fire-fighting services.

"The RFSA is a supporter of the previous model of collecting the levy through insurance policies and insurers and was very vocal about the pitfalls of changing to a levy implemented on property holders by Local Councils," he said.

“If the Government wishes to review the means of collecting the FESL that is their prerogative, but we have been provided with guarantees, and we would not want to see those undertakings compromised by model changes.

Hilltops Council General Manager Anthony McMahon said the Council recognises and supports the need to properly fund fire and emergency services, and will continue to work with Treasury on this.

“We have already done a lot of work to comply with the Government’s FESL legislation, and there will now be a need to undo this work,” he said.

“The local government sector had raised concerns throughout the process of introducing the levy and council supports the decision to get the system right before implementing any change."

Cootamundra MP Katrina Hodgkinson said the State Government thought removing the FESL from insurance premiums would create a fairer system.

But Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitted some in the commercial and industrial sectors would be “worse off by too much under the current model”.

“We are a Government that listens, and we have heard the concerns from the community, and we will take the time to get this right,” Ms Berejiklian said. 

“While the new system produces fairer outcomes in the majority of cases, some people – particularly in the commercial and industrial sectors – are worse off by too much under the current model, and that is not what we intended.

“The NSW Government will work with local government, fire and emergency services and the insurance industry to find a better and fairer path forward.”