HARVEY and Waroona shire presidents welcomed the announcement of a promised Rural Fire Division on April 13, set to operate under a restructured Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
Harvey shire president Tania Jackson said she welcomed the announcement and hoped the new division would take on the recommendations of the Ferguson Report.
“We felt that was a very good document that encompassed all our concerns about the Yarloop fires,” Cr Jackson said.
Waroona shire president Mike Walmsley congratulated Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan for making the Rural Fire Division a reality – a promise to the community during the last State Election.
Mr Walmsey said he hoped the new service would help repair the disconnect between the State Government and firefighters on the ground, who would also be listened to more.
“Hopefully it isn’t full of bureaucracy and there is some funding for those on the ground,” he said.
“I think there’s been a disconnect between the Government and the volunteers – hopefully this will remedy that.”
The $80 million division will operate as one of four command structures within the department, and will be funded through an increase in the Emergency Services Levy.
The four regional levy categories will see an increase of $8 and $17 per year while the metropolitan levy will increase $28 per year, due to take effect on July 1.
The division will not change the operational and management structure of the volunteer brigades which will remain with local governments.
The creation of a rural fire service was among the first recommendations made in the Ferguson Report following the 2016 Waroona-Yarloop Bushfires.
Minister Logan said the division would recognise the input and expertise of volunteers and harness the best in bushfire management.
“Since I took on this portfolio, I have met with bushfire volunteers from the bottom of this State to the top and the overwhelming theme has been the need for greater collaboration,” he said.
“We have to increase our efforts at reducing bushfire risks, and this record level of mitigation investment and the new division will help drive efforts to improve community safety.”
Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades president Dave Gossage said while there were details to be confirmed, he was very pleased with the announcement and looked forward to working wit its executive director Murray Carter.
“The association is very appreciative that Minister Logan appears to have done all he could in the current environment to make the new division as independent of the department as possible,” he said.
“Our ideal was to have a totally independent Rural Fire Service as recommended by the Ferguson Inquiry, but accept that the current financial and political reality made that virtually impossible.”
Mr Gossage also welcomed the creation of an Emergency Services Levy Referral and Grants Advisory Committee to provide transparency and accountability in where levy funds were allocated.
The announcement included an $18 million for a Bushfire Centre of Excellence, and $34.6 million put towards bushfire mitigation.