Bizarre dispute over ownership of Rural Fire Service equipment

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Campbelltown mayor George Greiss has gone on the front foot over a long standing dispute between the state government and local councils that is just bizarre.

In his Mayoral Minute for tomorrow night’s council meeting, Cr Greiss says the NSW Government determines Rural Fire Service assets are the “property” of councils.

Not only that, these assets must be recorded in the council’s financial statements, with the council required to absorb all depreciation costs and risks associated with control of the assets.

“Many Councils and Local Government NSW (LGNSW) disagree with this directive,’’ says the mayor.

He points out that councils do not have any decision making power in acquiring, deploying or disposing of these so called “red fleet’’ assets.

The dispute escalated with the Auditor-General’s 2021 Report on Local Government, which has reinforced this position and is now applying pressure on councils and the Office of Local Government (OLG) to conform to this determination.

The latest audit report has made further impositions on council by:

· recommending council undertakes a stocktake of RFS assets and records the value in council’s financial statements;

· warning that if council does not recognise the assets it will be found non-compliant and will have a high risk finding reported.

Cr Greiss writes in his Minute that Campbelltown Council will comply with the directive to “ensure we do not disrupt our services or shake the trust of our community’’.

But he promises that council will continue to advocate for change.

“We will continue to support the Local Government NSW (LGNSW) position and write to our local Members of Parliament, NSW Treasurer, Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and the Minister for Local Government, as well as the Shadow Treasurer, the Shadow Minister for Emergency Services and the Shadow Minister for Local Government,’’ he says.

“We will be expressing council’s objection to the NSW Government’s determination on ownership of Rural Fire Service assets;

“Call on the NSW Government to take immediate action to permanently address inequities and inconsistencies around the accounting treatment of Rural Fire Service assets by acknowledging that rural firefighting equipment is under the control and the property of the Rural Fire Service;

“Amend Section 119 of the Rural Fires Act 1997 (NSW) to make it clear that Rural Fire Service assets are not the property of councils.’’

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