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. Until this time, 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, Forestry 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 could 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 also focussed on the synergies between the SES and the 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 considering the potential impacts of different funding models.
20 submissions were received, and a series of targeted face-to-face meetings were conducted by Mr Michael Stevens.
In 2022, 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.