Photo caption: Taking a stand to transfer ownership of NSW Rural Fire Services fleet and buildings to the State Government, Uralla Shire Mayor Robert Bell, left, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall, Glen Innes Severn Mayor Rob Banham and Walcha Mayor Eric Noakes at the Kentucky RFS station today.
Monday, 19 June 2023
MEMBER for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall will introduce a Private Members’ Bill into State Parliament this week, amending the Rural Fires Act 1997, to transfer the ownership of NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) vehicles, fire trucks and buildings from local councils back to the State Government.
Mr Marshall made the announcement today at the Kentucky RFS station alongside the region’s Mayors, who have put their support behind the NSW Rural Fires Amendment (Red Fleet) Bill 2023.
“The ‘red fleet dispute’ has been an ongoing debacle – a political football – over the last 12 months between the State Government and local councils over who own and pays for RFS assets,” Mr Marshall said.
“My Bill will remedy the situation, bringing the argy-bargy to an end by making it clear that RFS assets belong to, and should be accounted for by, the State Government, via the NSW Rural Fire Service.
“This will bring the treatment of all these items inline with how the vehicle and building assets of all other emergency services in NSW are accounted for and remove an enormous and ridiculous cost burden from our local councils.
“Why should a local councils use ratepayer dollars to account for a depreciate an ‘asset’ which they do not purchase, manage or have the authority to dispose of?
“And why do councils legally own these vehicles but not police cars or Fire & Rescue NSW pumpers?”
Mr Marshall said his Bill would amend Section 119 of the Rural Fires Act 1997 to transfer the ownership of all NSW Rural Fire Service vehicles and buildings to the NSW Rural Fire Service.
“This will ensure these assets are vested solely with the RFS, which will be required to account for these assets, and the associated depreciation and costs, on its books,” Mr Marshall said.
“Currently the NSW Auditor General requires all local councils to do this, costing them a small fortune, or risk having their accounts qualified.
“Last year 43 local councils had their accounts qualified for the 2021/22 financial year due to them not accounting for and depreciating all RFS assets in their local government areas on their books.
“The depreciation costs alone, cost each council and their ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is money which could be better spent delivering services or fixing local roads.
“In the Northern Tablelands, more than $4 million annually would be saved if this Bill were to pass the Parliament.
“In essence, this Bill reverses a huge and archaic cost-shifting anomaly buried deep within the Act and puts the full cost back on the level of government responsible for the RFS; the State Government.
“There has been so much talk lately of the financial sustainability of local councils moving into the future, so this Bill has come at a perfect time.
“I hope the government and opposition support my Bill so we can resolve this dispute once and for all.”