Ormeau Rural Fire Volunteers were in attendance at a blaze near Esk when a large tree fell down and crushed the front cab of a fire truck. Picture: Ormeau Rural Fire Brigade
Ormeau Rural Fire Volunteers were in attendance at a blaze near Esk when a large tree fell down and crushed the front cab of a fire truck. Picture: Ormeau Rural Fire Brigade

Council pushed to increase ratepayers’ rural fire levy

RURAL Fire Brigades are asking for more money from council in the wake of the unprecedented 2019/20 fire season, which could come at an added cost to ratepayers.

After diligently defending homes and businesses in the worst fire season in recent history, QFES has written to Somerset Regional Council asking for $303,000 for the next financial year, almost $100,000 more than they requested in 2019.

In order to meet this need, council would have to raise the rural fire levy on homeowners from $25 per property or parcel of land to $35.60.

Councillor Robert Whalley raised concerns about the possible rise in cost to ratepayers, as it would not be the first time the levy has been increased in recent years.

"Going from $25 to $35.60 is almost a 40 per cent increase," he said.

"Obviously we've just had a pretty horrific fire season, but they won't all be like that, so is it expected that these levies will go back down in future years?"

Director of Finance Geoffrey Smith said a decrease would be unlikely.

"I don't expect that operating costs will go down," he said.

"It's possible over time the capital may rise, but that may take some years."

A final decision will not be made on the matter until the council's official budget meeting, currently scheduled for June 10.

Cr Cheryl Gaedtke asked for further information on how much the levy had been raised in the past to be included, to better inform council's decision at the budget meeting.

Mr Smith said he believed the levy had risen from $18 to the current $25 over recent years, but would look to confirm the rates.

Council voted to write back to QFES and advise that raising the levy would be considered at the budget meeting.