Tasmanian Farmers reject new fire levy

31 October 2023

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) says it cannot support the government's proposed Tasmanian Fire and Emergency Services fire levy funding models in their present form.

TFGA President, Ian Sauer, said the current fire levy is collected by local governments from rates, and by state government levies on residential, commercial and motor vehicle insurance. However, after a review of the Fire Services Act and the handing down of the ‘Blake Report’ the government is now looking to consolidate the Tasmanian Fire Service (TFS) and State Emergency Services (SES) along with the funding mechanism, which TFGA gives in principle support.

The proposed funding model will delete levies from insurance but substantially increase the levies paid on local government rates.

Mr Sauer said, “While we support the move toward a fairer, more efficient funding system with a single source of funding, in some instances we’re seeing farmers' contributions increase under one proposed model by a staggering 1000 per cent, and under the other model by at least 230 per cent in contributions, which is unacceptable and certainly not equitable.”

“Under the proposed bill Tasmanian Farmers will bear the financial burden of both of the governments’ suggested funding models. One of the problems with taking this bill to parliament is the government has not worked out a fair and suitable funding model nor has it consulted properly.

“It is impossible for us to support something which is undefendable, especially when farmers are already grappling with rising supply chain costs and the threat of an extended dry season.

“Given the significant impact this levy will have on farmers we’re disappointed by the lack of consultation with business and industry. This process has been underway for a long time, and the government has only just started consulting with industry, this is disappointing as we see farmers as part of the team!

“Farmers want to contribute but cannot be expected to carry the weight of such large increases, it is unreasonable.

“Rural people already volunteer their time for both fire and state emergency services. Farmers use their own firefighting equipment, and in many cases pay farm workers to fight fires as do rural businesses, this in-kind contribution is huge and is clearly not recognised by the Government.

This contribution saves the Government huge amounts of money and is done to ensure the safety of their local communities. However rural homes are not guaranteed the same emergency services and fire protection as suburban homes.

We consider firefighting and SES work as essential services, like schools, roads, and hospitals, and they should be funded as any other government service would be,” he said.

Farmers should not be expected to pay any more than they are now, to tax farmers and rural people more will show no recognition of the substantial in-kind contribution to fire fighting and fire management.

The TFGA has made contact with the Minister, the Minister's office, and the Department of Premier and Cabinet, with agreement to organise consultative sessions with TFGA business and others to achieve an equitable solution.