Claims a Rural Fire Service is unworkable and not able to be funded given current budget constraints are premature and short sighted.

The WA Local Government Association highlighted the current Emergency Services Levy review includes costing of possible rural fire service models, stating the review should help to guide any decision on bushfire services.

Responding to comments by the Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan that a standalone agency would be too expensive to run, WALGA President Cr Lynne Craigie suggested the outcomes of the review be considered before dismissing the concept.

“Part of the current ESL review is to consider the cost of a rural fire service which will reveal the extent of its feasibility in the proposed different forms,” Cr Craigie said.

“A draft report will be available mid-year and its findings will greatly assist the discussion on how we best meet the joint task of mitigating against, and responding to, bushfire events – and that includes local services.”

Cr Craigie said the current review received a high level of engagement from Local Governments and other key stakeholders such as Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Department of Parks and Wildlife and many volunteer associations.

“It’s clear that the way we’ve been working in the past needs to change, and the input into this current review demonstrates all parties’ willingness to contribute,” she said.

“To dismiss this work out of hand before it’s even properly completed risks losing valuable insights or opportunities that might arise from the review.”

Cr Craigie said the Ferguson review found local knowledge and expertise could be used to greater effect in emergency activities, with a rural fire service just one way of achieving this end.

“This current review is just a starting point in considering all our available options and using our collective resources to greatest effect,” Cr Craigie said. 

“Let’s not shut the door on any opportunity until it’s been fully considered in the context of the broader review, and our intended aim of how best to keep our communities safe.”

Cr Craigie said WALGA will be seeking to meet with the Minister to suggest any decisions on a rural fire service be delayed until after the ESL review.