Farmers feel fire levy burn

GIPPSLAND home-owners, farmers and businesses could feel their hip pockets burning following the State Government’s proposed increase to Victoria’s property-based Fire Services Levy.

The Andrews Government has outlined a 7.2 per cent FSL increase to deliver an additional $42.1 million for Country Fire Authority and Melbourne Fire Brigade resources.

Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood has criticised the proposal, labelling the plan as a “broken promise”.

“This means land owners will be slugged with a FSL increase which is four times the Consumer Price Index or inflation rate,” Mr Blackwood wrote.

“Given that the last Coalition CFA budget was $58 million more than Labor in 2010, it is difficult to understand why Labor is planning to increase FSL’s for all Victorian property owners.”

East Gippsland farmer Chris Nixon said he strongly lobbied with the Victorian Farmers Federation for the levy’s introduction.

“But we were looking for the levy to be placed on the improvement on farms, not the land component itself,” Mr Nixon said.

“For instance, when you buy a farm, there’s paddocks, fences and chook sheds that need improvements. It’s unfair to be taxing the land when the land doesn’t burn.”

He said land-owners with large paddocks and a couple of fences were paying a much higher dollar, and farmers across Victoria were set to be hit hard.

“The implementation of the FSL wasn’t as fair as it could have been and therefore any rate rises will impact heavily on the rural sector, just because of the capital nature of our businesses,” he said.

A spokesperson from the State Department of Treasury and Finance said any revenue raised would go directly into the operational budgets of the CFA and MFB.

“The local member trying to politicise this is an affront to the hard work of those in the CFA and MFB,” the spokesperson said.

“In the first two years of the scheme the revenue collected was over and under the estimates.

“This year sees the forecast move into the normal range.”

The VFF has called for a capped FSL rate at CPI or less, similar to the State Government’s requirements for local council rates.