Please find below a media statement recently published by Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, Hon Dr Steve Thomas MLC.
Bushfire Insurance cost rises must not be dumped on Local Government
The Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Dr Steve Thomas has called on the State Government to support bushfire management by local governments throughout the state in the wake of a massive rise in bushfire volunteer insurance premiums faced by shires and cities.
“Local Governments throughout Western Australia are facing increases of up to 67% in the cost of insurance to cover volunteers who protect our communities from bushfire, and in many cases this impost is unmanageable” Dr Thomas said. “The McGowan Government must step up and underpin the insurance required, or risk losing parts of this vital service as local governments struggle to keep up with the cost.”
“If the Government does not respond, I can see the day when ongoing rises in the cost of insurance push local governments to abandon management of bushfire volunteers, and the State will have no choice but have DFES take over. This will be at a much greater cost than the one the Government would face if they supported the insurance costs now.”
The cost of covering bushfire volunteers has skyrocketed in response to a Supreme Court case earlier this year which determined that the cost of injury to bushfire volunteers was to be borne primarily by local governments, and that the State Government’s responsibility was lessened.
“The Fenwick case decision effectively absolved the State Government of the bulk of legal responsibility, but in my view the state remains morally liable for greater support of the system.” Dr Thomas said.
“To leave local governments to carry the bulk of the financial burden without adequate support will undermine the whole system of local government management of bushfire preparedness and response, and risks having shires abandoning the process and leaving it to the State to manage. In regional and remote areas in particular this would be a disaster.”
“The cost of insuring our volunteers has gone up around 30% per volunteer, which perversely means that any shire or city that successfully recruits more volunteers will pay significantly more for the privilege.”
“There are shires in the South West and Great Southern facing insurance premium rises of 67% or two thirds because of successful recruitment and rising costs. I am calling on the McGowan Government to underpin this process, either legislatively or financially or both, to make sure that local governments are able to afford to continue to provide this vital service.”
“It will be much cheaper for the State in the long run.”