What is changing?
The new Tasmania Fire and Emergency Service Bill provides the flexibility and adaptability required for legislation to remain contemporary and more efficient to administer. This is critical for an emergency service organisation.
The Bill enables the following reform:
- The Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) and the State Emergency Service (SES) will formally unite to become the Tasmania Fire and Emergency Service (TFES).
- Importantly, our fire and emergency service workers will still be easily identifiable as they will continue to proudly wear their respective TFS and SES uniforms.
- The new TFES will be led by the Commissioner, Tasmania Fire and Emergency Service. The Commissioner, Tasmania Fire and Emergency Service will report directly to the Minister, for Police, Fire and Emergency Management and will be empowered to oversee the workforce and the budget for the TFES.
- The TFES will be one of two operational pillars of the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management (DPFEM).
- The authorities legislated for the current State Fire Commission (SFC) will be transferred to the new Commissioner. The SFC will become the State Fire and Emergency Service Committee.
- The State Fire and Emergency Service Committee will be Ministerially appointed and included in legislation and will report directly to and support the new Commissioner. The membership will grow and include representatives from SES and other emergency service providers.
- Our hard-working emergency services volunteers will be provided with greater protections under the new legislation.
- The Bill also includes an equitable, sustainable and fair funding model to support our TFES in the work they do to keep Tasmanians safe.
The world our fire and emergency services operate in has changed. We have to plan for the impact of climate change which will see more frequent and longer emergencies. The reviews of the Fire Service Act 1979 have highlighted the need for a stable, predictable and fair funding model to support our emergency service leaders to plan, respond to and transition to recovery after an emergency.
The following information will provide you with all you need to know about the new Funding model for the Tasmania Fire and Emergency Service that is legislated in the Bill, please take a moment to read the information and then visit our have your say page if you would like to provide a submission.
The new funding model
The way our fire and emergency services are funded will be changing. The new Tasmania Fire and Emergency Service Bill will ensure our fire and emergency services are funded appropriately now, and into the future.
The existing arrangements are in accordance with a complicated and narrow funding model first introduced in 1979. These arrangements have not changed to reflect the current operation of our fire and emergency service functions, including greater mobility, technology changes, longer fire seasons, increased response duration, and the impact of climate change. The current arrangements do not include funding for the State Emergency Service, which is also not currently funded in an appropriate or sustainable way.
Our emergency services currently rely on seven different funding streams, including three levies: insurance fire levy, a property-based levy, and a motor vehicle levy.
The Blake Review, and feedback on the Treasury Options Paper, highlighted that the current funding arrangements are complex and not fit for purpose, with recommendations that the insurance fire levy should be replaced with a property-based levy.
Insurance based taxes are widely considered to be inefficient given the additional cost they apply to insurance premiums and how they distort behaviour by deterring businesses from taking out sufficient insurance. They are also an unstable funding stream as they only apply to certain insurance policies and it is not compulsory to have an insurance policy.
Under the current model the property-based levy (known as the fire service contribution, which is paid through your council rates) is based on the brigade classification system. This means if you own a property near a career brigade, you pay more than someone who lives near a volunteer brigade. There are also different rates depending on which council area you live in.
This is significantly outdated – our fire and emergency services (career or volunteer) respond to everyone in our community equally and without hesitation. They don’t take any boundaries into consideration when they respond. Ultimately it means that some people pay less than others but receive the same high-quality service.
The draft TFES Bill proposes a simple, fair, and sustainable model to fund our fire and emergency services in accordance with the recommendations from The Blake Review, and feedback on the Treasury Options Paper. This model ensures both TFS and SES are funded appropriately now, and into the future.
The proposed funding model in the TFES Bill:
- abolishes the Insurance Fire Levy;
- simplifies the property-based levy (currently known as the Fire Service Contribution, which is paid through your council rates); and
- continues the existing Motor Vehicle Levy in its current form but extends it to include motorcycles.
The Motor Vehicle Levy
The current Motor Vehicle Levy will become the Motor Vehicle Fire and Emergency Service Levy and will be extended to include motorcycles.
In 2023-24 the fee per registered vehicle is $21, and this fee will continue to be indexed annually with movements in CPI. If you currently receive a concession on your Motor Vehicle Fire Levy, the concession will continue to apply to the Motor Vehicle Fire and Emergency Service Levy.
Concession Rate Increase
The Tasmanian Government is proposing to increase the concession rate for the Fire and Emergency Service Levy and the Motor Vehicle Fire Levy from 20% to 30%.
The eligibility criteria for a concession will not change.
The new fire and emergency service levy will be calculated using a property’s Assessed Annual Value (AAV) (found on your council rates notice) multiplied by the relevant land classification rate. The land classifications are based on land usage.
Your levy = your AAV x your land classification rate (refer to the Proposed land classification rates table) – your concession*
*if you are eligible for a government concession
The fire and emergency service levy will replace the current Fire Contribution Levy on your council rates notice.
Current Fire Service Contribution Funding model
The Fire Service Act 1979 prescribes the current funding arrangements for the State Fire Commission (SFC), which is the governing body for the TFS.
As noted in the Blake Review, these arrangements are extremely complex and highly prescriptive, with funding being provided from a range of sources.
This includes a property-based levy. Under this levy, where you live determines what you pay for the fire service. As a result, some households pay $44 per annum, and some paying over $400 per annum. This is because the rates are currently set according to the local government area where a property is, and whether it is supported by a career, volunteer or retained brigade.
However, our fire and emergency services do not operate this way and will regularly move in and out of local government boundaries to provide emergency response. For example, large regional fires often receive career brigades and aircraft response, or a motor vehicle accident will have the first crew available attend.
The following table demonstrates the inequities – this includes that there are inequities across local government areas, as well as inequities across urban and regional areas.
Table 1 – Examples – Current Funding Model Inequities
|Location||Classification Rate||Cost for an average AAV|
To resolve these inequities, the Blake Review (2020) provided 16 recommendations for funding reform, and consultation on models was undertaken in 2022. As a result of the feedback from the consultation, the Government is proposing two models that are possible for implementation under the current draft Bill, which is also available for consultation.
The current model results in high levels of funding uncertainty and variability for the TFS and SES on a yearly basis. This means funding projections can vary significantly from future deficit (as per the 2021-22 Corporate Plan), to projected surplus (as per the 2022-23 Corporate Plan), which stifles service planning, restricts investment in facilities and equipment, reduces the support available for volunteers, and impacts on important work like fuel reduction activity.
Current arrangements are not sustainable or effective to support an emergency service that needs to grow and invest regularly in new equipment to provide lifesaving services and meet the needs of the future.
This is why Tasmania needs a fairer approach to funding its fire and emergency services to allow the TFES to effectively plan and deliver services for all Tasmanians.
We are proposing to:
- Remove the insurance-based levy
- Reform the property-based levy
- Keep the motor vehicle levy and include motorcycles in this levy
Property based levies are used extensively in most other jurisdictions. Tasmania’s emergency response resourcing is therefore at significant risk in the future if action is not taken.
To achieve this, we are proposing two options:
- Option 1 – set a single rate across Tasmania, or
- Option 2 – set a two-tiered rate across Tasmania depending on whether you live in a rural or urban area.
These options are described in further detail in the next section of this webpage.
To resolve the current situation where Tasmanians pay more than 29 different property rates (see table 1), the Government proposes that all residential properties pay a fixed amount – 1%.
This means no matter where you live in Tasmania, everyone is paying the same rate.
For a property with an average AAV, this would therefore be $180. If you have a higher value AAV, you will pay more. If you have a lower value AAV, you will pay less.
In doing this we can be confident that Tasmania has a fair and sustainable funding model that is applied equitably across Tasmania.
As part of equalising the current payment model we are proposing there would be different rates for other land classifications. This is to recognise that the fire and emergency response at commercial or industrial premises are often of greater risk or complexity to respond to than residential property.
Table 2 – Proposed Land Classifications – Option 1
|Community Services||0.5 %|
|Primary Production||2.4 %|
Option 2 proposes a two-tiered rate to be introduced across Tasmania with one rate for urban areas, and another for regional areas.
The outcome of Option 2 would be that urban areas continue to pay similar rates as they do now – but, the rate would be standardised removing inequities between cities.
For regional areas there will be a smaller increase than under Option 1, but the goal of equalisation for these areas would still be achieved meaning there is greater equity between rural areas.
In practice, this will result in regions paying less than a pensioner in an urban area.
The proposed two-tier system is in Table 3.
Table 3 – Proposed Land Classifications – Option 2
|Community Services||0.6 %|
|Primary Production||1.2 %|
|Residential (Urban)||1.2 %|
What comes next?
- Consultation on the draft Tasmania Fire and Emergency Service Bill closed on Friday 1 December 2023.
- Submissions are currently being reviewed and published submissions are available on the submissions webpage.
- The Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management and leaders from Tasmania Fire Service and State Emergency Service are continuing to work with key stakeholders including employees, volunteers, unions and volunteer associations, Local Government Association, State Fire Commission and State Fire Management Council in shaping the new Tasmania Fire and Emergency Service. This has included briefings from Mike Blake on his report findings.
- For further information contact, FES.Reform@dpfem.tas.gov.au