The WA Government has announced it will provide $128.5 million to assist fire and emergency services and develop a Rural Fire Division.
Though the 2018/19 budget, the State Government will deliver:
- $80 million to enhance rural bushfire capacity through the new Rural Fire Division.
- Major reforms address issues raised in the Waroona Bushfire Special Inquiry.
- $18 million for the Australian-first Bushfire Centre of Excellence.
- A $34.6 million increase in funding for bushfire mitigation, in addition to the Mitigation Activity Fund announced last year.
- A $15 million extension to the Bushfire Risk Management Plans program.
- A Ministerial Volunteer Advisory Forum for Volunteer Support Officers to assist with administration duties.
- Greater support for volunteers and recognition of volunteer skills and experience.
- Vital services responsibly funded by a modest increase in the Emergency Services Levy.
The Rural Fire Division will be one of four command structures in the new Department of Fire and Emergency Services set-up.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said the Rural Fire Division will enable volunteers to have greater input in bushfire management.
Bush fire brigades across the state will remain with local governments.
Each bush fire brigades’ operations and management strategies will not be altered by the changes.
Mr McGowan said the government was dedicated to improving fire-fighting services in the state.
“Western Australia is a unique State whose invaluable bushfire volunteers face enormous and widely different challenges from Esperance to Kununurra,” he said.
“The Rural Fire Division is a major part of the broader changes and will not only recognise the skills and experience of volunteers, but provide them with even greater support.
“Under my Government, we have nearly implemented all of the recommendations of the Ferguson Report and the Rural Fire Division marks a significant shift in how we manage bushfire risks.”
Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan said the program will greatly assist rural and regional firefighting services.
“This is a major step forward for Western Australia. For the first time ever, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services will have a division dedicated to rural firefighting and bushfire management,” he said.
“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.
“We have listened and put in place a division that recognises the input and expertise of our volunteers, but will also harness the best in bushfire management.”
From July 1, 2018, an increase of $28 to the metropolitan Emergency Services Levy will come into effect.
Increases of between $8 and $17 per annum across the four regional Emergency Services Levy categories will also be included in the 2018-19 budget.
Association for Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades President Dave Gossage was pleased the government fulfilled its promise of a Rural Fire Division.
“Based on what we have seen so far, the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades is very pleased with the announcement,” he said.
“We warmly welcome the appointment of Murray Carter to the new role of Executive Director of the new Rural Fire Division and look forward to working with him to develop a leadership team that truly understands the unique needs and motives of the tens of thousands of amazing bush fire brigade volunteers throughout the State.”