Rural Fire Division to drive new era of enhanced bushfire management

The McGowan Labor Government will invest a record $128.5 million towards critical fire and emergency services, including a Rural Fire Division, as part of the 2018-19 State Budget.
  • $80 million to enhance rural bushfire capacity through the new Rural Fire Division
  • Major reforms address issues raised in the Waroona Bushfire Special Inquiry
  • $18 million for the Australian-first Bushfire Centre of Excellence
  • Unprecedented $34.6 million increase in funding for bushfire mitigation
  • $15 million extension to the Bushfire Risk Management Plans program
  • Greater support for volunteers and recognition of volunteer skills and experience
  • Vital services responsibly funded by a modest increase in the Emergency Services Levy 

The McGowan Labor Government will invest a record $128.5 million towards critical fire and emergency services, including a Rural Fire Division, as part of the 2018-19 State Budget.

The Rural Fire Division, one of four command structures in the revamped Department of Fire and Emergency Services, will recognise the expertise and experience of Western Australia's bushfire volunteers and enable volunteers to have greater input into bushfire management.

Importantly, the Rural Fire Division does not change the operational and management structure of Bush Fire Brigades which will remain with local governments.

A first of its kind $18 million Bushfire Centre of Excellence will be developed to enhance bushfire management practices across the State, and provide a specialised facility for volunteers to train other volunteers in bushfire firefighting.

The centre will also bring together bushfire management best practice and scientific research to help develop new bushfire management principles.

An additional $15 million will also be invested in the Bushfire Risk Management Plans program, to help local governments identify and manage their bushfire risks.

A boost of $34.6 million has been provided to bushfire mitigation efforts, which is in addition to the Mitigation Activity Fund announced last November.

A Ministerial Volunteer Advisory Forum will also be established and Volunteer Support Officers will be locally engaged to help volunteers with administration duties.

The unprecedented investment in vital bushfire management services will be funded through the Emergency Services Levy (ESL), with a modest increase taking effect on July 1, 2018. An increase of $28 to the metropolitan ESL and increases of between $8 and $17 per annum across the four regional ESL categories will also be included in the 2018-19 State Budget.

In Western Australia, the levy applies to all properties including about 690,000 metropolitan households and 300,000 regional and peri-urban households as part of annual local government rate charges.

This investment and changes to the oversight of the ESL are consistent with the Economic Regulation Authority's review of the ESL, in response to the Waroona Bushfire Special Inquiry.

Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:

"Western Australia is a unique State whose invaluable bushfire volunteers face enormous and widely different challenges from Esperance to Kununurra.

"The Rural Fire Division is a major part of the broader changes and will not only recognise the skills and experience of volunteers, but provide them with even greater support.

"Under my Government, we have nearly implemented all of the recommendations of the Ferguson Report and the Rural Fire Division marks a significant shift in how we manage bushfire risks.

"We are also committed to responsible financial management, and funding important initiatives like these reflects the contribution everyone in the community plays to delivering emergency service management across the State. 

"We've also taken steps to improve oversight of the ESL by creating an ESL Referral and Grants Advisory Committee to provide independent scrutiny and ensure maximum value for all Western Australians."

Comments attributed to Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan:

"This is a major step forward for Western Australia. For the first time ever, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services will have a division dedicated to rural firefighting and bushfire management.

"Since I took on this portfolio, I have met with bushfire volunteers from the bottom of this State to the top and the overwhelming theme has been the need for greater collaboration.

"We have listened and put in place a division that recognises the input and expertise of our volunteers, but will also harness the best in bushfire management.

"We have to increase our efforts at reducing bushfire risks, and this record level of mitigation investment and the new division will help drive efforts to improve community safety.

"But all landowners must recognise their obligations and reduce bushfire risk on their land to avoid putting our volunteer and career firefighters in dangerous situations.

"Our State is moving into an era of enhanced bushfire management with record funding that will strengthen efforts to keep our communities safe and provide even greater support for our bushfire volunteers."

Premier's office - 6552 5000

Emergency Services Minister's office - 6552 6300