The WA Government will invest a record $128.5 million towards critical fire and emergency services, including a Rural Fire Division, as part of the 2018-19 State Budget.
The Rural Fire Division, one of four command structures in the revamped Department of Fire and Emergency Services, will recognise the expertise and experience of Western Australia’s bushfire volunteers and enable volunteers to have greater input into bushfire management.
Importantly, the Rural Fire Division does not change the operational and management structure of Bush Fire Brigades which will remain with local governments.
A first of its kind $18 million Bushfire Centre of Excellence will be developed to enhance bushfire management practices across the State, and provide a specialised facility for volunteers to train other volunteers in bushfire firefighting.
The centre will also bring together bushfire management best practice and scientific research to help develop new bushfire management principles.
An additional $15 million will also be invested in the Bushfire Risk Management Plans program, to help local governments identify and manage their bushfire risks.
A boost of $34.6 million has been provided to bushfire mitigation efforts, which is in addition to the Mitigation Activity Fund announced in November 2017.
A Ministerial Volunteer Advisory Forum will also be established and Volunteer Support Officers will be locally engaged to help volunteers with administration duties.
The unprecedented investment in vital bushfire management services will be funded through the Emergency Services Levy (ESL), with a modest increase taking effect on July 1, 2018. An increase of $28 to the metropolitan ESL and increases of between $8 and $17 per annum across the four regional ESL categories will also be included in the 2018-19 State Budget.
In Western Australia, the levy applies to all properties including about 690,000 metropolitan households and 300,000 regional and peri-urban households as part of annual local government rate charges.
This investment and changes to the oversight of the ESL are consistent with the Economic Regulation Authority’s review of the ESL, in response to the Waroona Bushfire Special Inquiry.
Source: WA Government