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Fire Service Funding Issues

Fire Service – funding issues and local government

The government is working towards a new approach to Fire Service funding.

Information is being gathered about the range of functions carried out by the Fire Service as well as means of funding the service. Linkages with other emergency services are also being researched.

Proposals to link Fire Service funding to property have previously been debated as one way of fixing well-known inequities in the current system. Government proposals for such a linkage have had a positive response but Local Government New Zealand has sought further information and debate before a new system is introduced.

The issues raised by LGNZ have been recognised as useful and as a result officials are examining issues related to fire and other first response services work. These include the increasing role of the Fire Service at road accidents, its role in the development of urban search and rescue capability, and its evolving role under the new emergency management framework.

The Government intends to decide on the future source of funding once these issues are fully examined.

Officials will make an interim report later this year, allowing Ministers to set the timetable for the completion of this work.

Questions and Answers

Q. What is happening to proposals for changes in Fire Service funding?

Work on the option to move to a property-based Fire Service funding system was originally aimed at fixing inequities in the current system. However this work has now broadened to include other issues. With the Fire Service Commission now on an improved financial footing, the need for an urgent solution has diminished.
    Reasons for the broadening of the scope of the work include the increasing role of the Fire Service in activities such as assisting at road accidents and developing urban search and rescue capability, as well as its evolving role under the new emergency management framework. Questions related to these roles need to be answered before funding sources are decided. The present exercise allows an opportunity to look at these wider issues.

    Q. What is this new review about?

    There is no formal review as such. Officials are currently examining a number of issues related to fire and other first response services in order to brief government on where further detailed work needs to be done. The initial work involves information gathering.

    Q. Who is involved in the officials' group?

    The Department of Internal Affairs is the lead department of a core group which comprises: the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Treasury, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Local Government New Zealand and the Fire Service Commission. Other departments and interested parties will be consulted when this is appropriate.

    Q. Why is local government involved in this work?

    Any funding system based on property could involve local government. Local authorities are already directly involved in the funding and running of rural fire services. The new emergency management framework is also organised around local government involvement and has strong natural linkages to the emergency services. Close cooperation about matters of mutual interest between local and central government also reflects the spirit of the new Local Government Act.

    Q. Will rates be used to fund the Fire Service?

    No. Rates are raised for local government services. A levy, or similar payment, cannot be a part of rates but it would be possible to collect a levy at the same time as rates payments. This might prove to be a cost effective collection method which did not inconvenience property owners. But no decisions have been made on what sort of funding system will be used.

    Q. Are rural and urban fire services going to be amalgamated?

    Urban fire services are often mistaken for rural ones because they may be located in small rural communities where they protect property and provide other emergency responses. These are run by the national Fire Service. However rural fire services specialise in fighting forest and vegetation fires and are run by local fire authorities. The work in identifying the issues between urban and rural services is still in an information gathering stage. Options for solutions cannot be proposed until any problems have been properly identified.

    Q. Will we still have a national fire service?

    Yes.

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    Last updated: 25/11/2003