The last Fraser Coast Regional Council meeting for the year at the Maryborough City Hall.
The last Fraser Coast Regional Council meeting for the year at the Maryborough City Hall.

FIREYS BOOST: New plan to future proof volunteers

THE region's Rural Fire Service volunteers will be more prepared on the front line of disasters after the council decided to drop the rural fire levy and enter a sponsorship agreement.

The agreement, worth almost $1 million across a three-year period, will bolster the Fraser Coast's 28 rural fire brigades.

Chairman of the Local Disaster Management Group councillor Rolf Light said the Fraser Coast Regional Council agreement, to be reviewed in three years, brings financial certainty to the brigades by clearly outlining the funds the council will contribute to their operations each year.

Cr Light, who moved the motion at today's council meeting, explained although the whole region benefited from the volunteer heroes in their yellow trucks, only 13,670 property owners paid a Rural Fire Special Levy.

Under the new policy, all properties in the region would pay about $7 towards the rural fire service and the current Rural Fire Special Levy would be scrapped from July 1 2021.

Cr Light explained with new urban fire stations being built the number of properties which paid the rural fire levy was diminishing however the need for the vital service was not.

"As the region has grown and more areas have been classified as urban and the number of properties classified as rural has decreased, funds for the brigades has decreased. Funds would have continued to decrease if this initiative was not put in place," he said.

Cr Light estimated without this new initiative, the rural fire service stood to lose $80,000 with the new urban station opening Howard.

The sponsorship arrangement was developed by a working group comprised of rural fire brigade volunteers, Queensland Rural Fire Service and the council.

Under the deal, the council will contribute $330,000 in 2020/2021, $332,500 in 2021/2022, and $335,000 in 2022/2023.

Cr Light said although the Gold Coast was the first council to implement this policy, the Fraser Coast could pave the way for supporting a large asset for the region.

Depending on decisions made in next year's budget meeting, the replacement of the Rural Fire Special Levy with sponsorship could see a 0.45 per cent in general rates.