HOMEOWNERS could be forced to foot the bill for rural fire protection under a push by the Shires Association of NSW (SA).
The association voted to withdraw from NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) operations at their annual conference in Sydney this week.
The association says RFS funding should be provided by a combination of state government funding and a property tax on homeowners.
Currently, all NSW councils must contribute 11.7 per cent of the cost of fire services in each RFS zone. The Canobolas Zone received $760,000 from Orange, Cabonne, Blayney and Cowra councils for the 2011/12 financial year.
The councils’ contributions were a fraction of the $6.5 million required to run the zone’s vehicles, stations, infrastructure, insurance and maintenance costs.
Canobolas Zone RFS acting general manager, superintendent David Jones said they would be disappointed if local councils were no longer involved with the service.
“We’re really lucky in Canobolas because we have a great relationship with the councils,” he said.
“Three of the mayors are members of the RFS, the mayors all understand the service the RFS delivers to the community.
“We’re really keen to work with local council and we’re really lucky we’ve got a great relationship with them.”
SA president Ray Donald said the association had asked Police and Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher to consider the proposal.
“There have been raising levels of dissatisfaction between the operation of the RFS and councils,” he said.
Cabonne Council spokesman Dale Jones said council contributed $184,901 to the Canobolas RFS this financial year and did not support the change.
“We should retain the current arrangement with the RFS but we need to see improvement from the RFS with processes,” he said.
Mr Jones said Cabonne had concerns that much of the funding provided by councils was going towards administration costs in their Sydney head office.
Orange City Council general manager Garry Styles would not say if council supported the move to make the RFS “fully autonomous”.
“The point that’s been made by many councils is that the costs go up at a larger rate than the [annual council] rate increases [allowed by the state government],” he said.