THE State Government has accused the City of Gold Coast of siphoning close to a million dollars worth of critical funding from our rural hinterland fire brigades.
Council have responded, stating the new Emergency Management, Fire and Rescue levy on Gold Coast rural properties covered only some of the overall costs for the Rural Fire Brigades, not their operational costs.
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Social media exploded with backlash last night after a volunteer firefighter claimed the brigades funding had been slashed and that would ultimately put thousands of people across the coast at risk.
In response to our article on Wednesday night, the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency services today accused Gold Coast City Council of “ripping money out of the services”.
Hitting back at the claims, Jack Dempsey contacted myGC this morning – saying the Queensland government had in fact increased its funding.
He said the state government now funded 100 per cent of vehicle and training costs, up from the previous 80 per cent, taking the total state-wide funding to $35 million.
He urged Council to restore the essential funding immediately.
“I share the outrage directed at (Council),” The Minister told myGC. “(Their) decision to rip $800,000 a year from our rural firies beggars belief.”
“(Council) must immediately restore this crucial funding and quit playing politics with our hard working firefighters,” he said.
On the Gold Coast, rural fire brigades play a huge role in community safety, with the city surrounded by thick vegetation and mountainous terrain.
Seven City of Gold Coast Councillors that have Rural Fire Brigades within their divisions have requested a meeting with the State Members with affected brigades in their electorates on March 26 at the Council Chambers to discuss the issue.
When approached for comment, Council issued myGC with a statement explaining why they decided to stop collecting the Rural Fire Brigade Levy.
“The City of Gold Coast previously collected a fee from rural ratepayers to subsidise the $575,000 annual cost to run the Rural Fire Brigade Service,” A spokesperson for the City of Gold Coast told myGC.
“From January 1 this year, the State Government introduced a new Emergency Management, Fire and Rescue levy which the City was compelled to collect from ratepayers on its behalf.
“For the first time, this levy applied to properties outside of the urban areas. Given that there were then two levies applying to the rural properties, Council resolved to stop collecting the Rural Fire Brigade Levy,” Council said.
The Guanaba Rural Fire Brigade have openly expressed their concerns, having placed a large banner informing locals of the changes outside their hinterland station.