A BID by Griffith City Council to stop funding the Rural Fire Service (RFS) has sparked concerns the service’s emergency response will be affected.
Along with close to 100 other NSW councils, Griffith’s representatives supported a proposal at the Local Government and Shires Association of NSW (LGSA) conference last week to ask the state government to take over full funding of the RFS.
At present, local government provides about 12 per cent of the service’s budget but has no say in how those funds are distributed.
Council general manager Brett Stonestreet, who attended the conference with councillor Anne Napoli, said some of the money was used for new equipment for the local brigade but the rest was used for administration and other purposes.
“The main concern of members is that we have little control over those costs,” Mr Stonestreet said.
“What we’re doing here is no reflection of the excellent service the RFS provides; the proposed disconnect with local government has to do with funding priorities and the ability to influence the budget.
“The community does get a great service through the RFS and I’d like to emphasise the excellent work the volunteers do.”
Mr Stonestreet said Griffith residents benefited from the RFS in terms of firefighting and safeguarding the community but he believed the state government should be responsible for supporting the service.
The LGSA will now submit a proposal to the state government for a full takeover of the funding.
Councils have been supporting the RFS for decades, with their portion of funds peaking at 25 per cent in the 1990s.
RFS MIA Zone manager Kevin Adams was concerned a withdrawal of financial support would affect the relationship between his staff and council.
“We have always got along with council, we get a lot of support from them when we’re dealing with incidents like the recent floods,” Mr Adams said.
“I would hope that support would still be forthcoming, even if council do distance themselves from us in terms of funding.”
The RFS proposal is one of several the LGSA will lobby for in the coming months.
On behalf of council, Mr Stonestreet and Mrs Napoli put forward a motion for the NSW government to fully fund the state’s school safety program, which provides crossings and signage around schools.
The program is currently 50 per cent funded by local government and 50 per cent funded by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS).
The motion was supported unanimously.