The Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades met with officials from the Economic Regulation Authority (ERA) this week to discuss the management of the Emergency Services Levy (ESL).

It was a lengthy meeting with a wide range of issues regarding ESL management discussed.

One of the key issues for bush fire brigades has been the failure of DFES to share the growth in ESL revenue with the front line volunteer services.

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It has been our experience that some volunteers do not understand clearly that the ESL levy is meant to fund “provision of services under the emergency services Acts” such as front line services like Bush Fire Brigades.

A major concern is the failure of DFES to increase funding for local governments’ Bush Fire Brigades in line with ESL revenue growth. The result is that the share of ESL revenue directed to local government for the brigades has fallen from 11% in 2003-04 to only 6% in 2015-16.

This means that the brigades have been short changed from the ESL and ought to have received even more appliances, stations and other equipment upgrades over the past 12 years. We will continue to work with the ERA throughout the review to ensure the ESL review looks at all aspects that are connected with the collection and distribution of ELS funds.



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Identifying the neglect of the Bush Fire Brigades


An analysis comparing ESL revenue growth, DFES’ expenditure growth and funding for the Bush Fire Brigades makes a powerful statement about the financial neglect of Bush Fire Brigades.

The table below shows a remarkable divergence in growth between ESL revenue and DFES’ expenditure compared with grant funding for the Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades.

Over the 12 year period (2004/05 to 2015/16) ESL revenue has increased by 198% and DFES expenditure has grown by 160%.

During that period, grant funding for the Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades increased only 68%.

The enormity of this divergence between ESL revenue growth and DFES’ expenditure growth compared to Bush Fire Brigades funding is deeply concerning.


Year BFS Total Grants ESL Revenue DFES expenditure BFS Grants as % of ESL
$ million $ million $ million %
2003/04 12.77 112 145 11%
2004/05 11.8 126 172 9%
2005/06 11.8 139 182 8%
2006/07 13 150 222 9%
2007/08 13.6 165 218 8%
2008/09 13.6 173 224 8%
2009/10 13.3 184 258 7%
2010/11 20.4 224 311 9%
2011/12 22 239 441 9%
2012/13 20.8 162 225 13%
2013/14 20.3 281 347 7%
2014/15 20 299 360 7%
2015/16 21.5 333 377 6%
Change 68% 198% 160%

(Information sourced from DFES publications on ESL grants and annual reports.)






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