Council calls for urgent review of fire and rescue levy
THE EMERGENCY Management Fire and Rescue Levy is in urgent need of review according to Southern Downs Regional Council with the additional tax being unfair on ratepayers in small rural towns.
Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley said locals are blaming council for the extra charge when it is in fact a State Government initiative.
"My personal opinion, away from council, is that I will not be paying the levy," Cr Bartley said.
"I will be holding out against the levy in a form of protest.
"I don't know how much more the rural sector can stand, we are already struggling through a drought," he said.
Cr Bartley said he would be happy to pay the fee if he knew the money was going directly back to the emergency groups.
"There's no guarantee and they haven't been very open about how the money will be used," he said.
"This is a very popular LNP area however I can tell you this decision has been very unpopular.
"Everyone should stand up and let the government know they aren't happy," Cr Bartley said.
Local Government Minister David Crisafulli said council's had every right to explain to ratepayers the levy is a state charge.
"The increased demand for things like swift water rescues, helicopter rescues and other emergency responses across the board means we need to have a well-resourced emergency services to help communities in their time of need."
Southern Downs CEO Andrew Roach said they had raised the concerns about this tax with Police and Community Safety Minister Jack Dempsey last year.
"The minister advised that State Government believed the expansion of the former Fire Levy was one of the most equitable means for providing the best emergency response for Queensland," he said.
"However council now finds itself in the position of needing to collect a levy which it has no control over."
"As emergency management is required in all Queensland households it is recommended that the EMFRL is imposed on electricity bills in the next financial year."
Mr Roach said council was further proposing the Local Government Association of Queensland lobby and drive a whole of council approach across the state.
Warwick Fire Brigade Station Officer Darren Welsh said a majority of their funding comes from levies.
"It helps pay our wages, gets us new trucks and pays for equipment," he said.
"And because of this we maintain our equipment more."
Councillor Vic Pennisi said he was also concerned about farmers affected by drought dubbed with the extra fee.
"We already have a rural fire levy in place and I can't see how this new levy will help our farmers," he said.