Fire and Emergency Service Act Reform
Tasmania’s Fire Service Act 1979 (the Act) is over 43 years old. After more than six years of comprehensive reviews and public consultation the Tasmanian Government will establish new legislation, replacing the Fire Service Act 1979.
The new Act underpins critical reform to ensure our fire and emergency service are best positioned to prepare for and respond to emergencies and keep Tasmanians safe in the face of disaster.
What is changing?
- The Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) and State Emergency Service (SES) will unite to become the Tasmania Fire and Emergency Service (TFES). Importantly, our salaried and volunteer emergency service workers will still be easily identifiable as they will continue to proudly wear their respective TFS or SES uniforms.
- The new TFES will be led by the Commissioner, Fire and Emergency Service. Mr Dermot Barry, the current TFS Chief Officer, will be appointed to this position.
- The Commissioner, Fire and Emergency Service will report directly to the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management.
- The State Fire Commission will become the State Fire and Emergency Service Committee, allowing the membership to grow and include representatives from SES and other key stakeholders.
- State Fire and Emergency Service Committee will report directly to and support the new Commissioner.
- Our hard working emergency services volunteers will be provided with greater protections under the new legislation.
Why was the Fire Service Act Reviewed?
In 2016 the House of Assembly Standing Committee on Community Development’s Inquiry into the State Fire Commission recommended that, on the evidence presented, a review of the Fire Service Act 1979 (the Act) was necessary. The Act had not been reviewed since it was proclaimed.
The Committee recommended the Act must be reformed or replaced to allow for:
- A centralised funding model for the State Emergency Service (SES)
- A streamlined approach to fire fighting between Tasmania Fire Service (TFS), Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, Sustainable Timber Tasmania, and other relevant agencies
- Resources to be allocated according to the risk and not according to local government municipal boundaries
- The continuation of Tasmania having a singular fire service
- Clear reporting lines
- Improved governance structure
- Inclusion of the fire permit system and inter-agency protocols
Following this Inquiry, in 2017 the Tasmanian Government endorsed a review of the Fire Service Act 1979 to provide advice about how the Government can achieve:
- a clear mandate and operating platform for fire services functions
- an effective and efficient fire service operation that will provide value for money in the future
- a sustainable, stable, and equitable funding system for fire services
The review has also focussed on the synergies between the SES and TFS, to consider the best operating platform for both organisations.
What informed the decision?
In 2017 Mr Michael Harris, was appointed to lead the Fire Service Act Review. In undertaking the review Mr Harris proposed the following outputs:
- Develop an Issues Paper on the Act
- Implement broad consultation with local, regional, and state authorities/agencies on issues, opportunities, and potential changes to the Act
- Develop a Draft Report
- Undertake further stakeholder consultation
- Develop a Final Report with Recommendations
- Present recommendations to the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management
- Reform of the Fire Service Act 1979
The Harris Issues Paper was released for public consultation in 2018. The Issues paper posed a series of questions regarding considerations for inclusion within a new Fire Service Act.
There were 39 responses received in respect to the Harris Issues paper.
Mr Mike Blake was appointed to analyse responses to the Harris Issues paper and develop a draft report with recommendations for drafting of the new Fire Service Act.
The Blake Report was released in August 2021, and in October 2021 Treasury released an Options Paper was released that considering the potential impacts of different funding models.
Feedback on the Blake Report and the Options Paper was open until December 2021. 20 submissions were received and a series of targeted face-to-face meetings were conducted by Mr Michael Stevens.
Mr Stevens produced a report (The Stevens Report) for the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management, outlining a position in respect to the recommendations made in the Blake Report, including whether those recommendations should be adopted, adopted in principle with further analysis required, rejected or alternatives offered.
What comes next?
A reform project team is being established to progress the drafting of new legislation. This will include the implementation of recommendations endorsed by Government and working with key stakeholders in the development of a Draft Bill.
The funding arrangements are currently being considered as part of the 2023/2024 Tasmanian Budget process.
For further information email, FES.Reform@dpfem.tas.gov.au