Councils in the Eastern Riverina region of NSW have expressed their support for the Local Government and Shires Associations of New South Wales (LGSA) calls to discuss a review of the funding model for emergency services.
In a meeting of councils held in Temora, President of the Shires Association, Cr Bruce Miller, confirmed that the O’Farrell Government have committed to conducting a review of the funding of emergency services.
“We will seek an urgent meeting with the new Minister for Emergency Services as soon as the Ministry is announced,” he said.
“We are hopeful that we are on the verge of a much improved, ongoing dialogue between Local and State Government in NSW.”
According to Cr Miller, the former NSW Government’s recent increases in the RFS component of the Emergency Services Levy (ESL), highlight the need
for the current emergency services funding arrangements to be scrapped and replaced with a broad based property levy.
“This system is used in other states and would replace the hidden ESL in council rates and insurance policies and was recommended by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission,” he said.
Mayor of Cootamundra Shire Council, Paul Braybrooks, said the large spike in contributions to the Emergency Services Levy in late 2010 has caused a great deal of unnecessary anxiety for councils and their communities.
“This was a huge concern not just because of the increased levies that were forced upon councils, but also in the way they were imposed and the lack of consultation,” he said Cr.
“Over the past 10 years, the total emergency services budget has increased by an average of eight per cent annually compared to an average 3.3 per cent limit on increases in council rates,” he said.
Other issues discussed were the need for more police officers in rural areas, solar power rebates, regional water quality and security, and the standard of local roads and rail infrastructure.