SES volunteers
SES volunteers David Stuart

Emergency services levy slug

PROPERTY owners across the Northern Rivers could be slugged with a levy of up to $300 a year to fund fire and emergency services following an overhaul of the NSW land valuation system.

A final report into land valuation tabled in NSW parliament on Thursday recommended changes to how land is valued to ensure equality across the state for land tax and council rates.

It is likely the O'Farrell Government will endorse the recommendations and move to introduce a land value-based emergency services levy that was signalled in the 2012 Budget, scrapping the current insurance-based model.

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird said while no final decision had been made on the levy, the current insurance-based system was unfair as uninsured households still benefited from emergency services without paying for them.

"We think it would be fairer for every household in the state if everyone made a contribution to our emergency services to spread the costs across the whole community," he said.

Mr Baird said the government would consider recommendations about the levy in the next few weeks.

Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association senior policy advisor Amelia Christie said the association was calling for an emergency services levy safety net to protect low income earners unable to afford the levy.

"Fire and emergency services are essential for the safety of all NSW citizens and like ambulance services that are free for pensioners, those deemed unable to pay should not be placed in financial hardship by the introduction of a property-based fire levy," she said.

Currently a tax on insurance companies funds 75% of the annual cost of Fire and Rescue NSW, The Rural Fire Service and the SES, which insurance companies pass onto consumers through higher insurance premiums.

The shortfall is made up by the state government and a tax on local councils.

A discussion paper on the levy released in 2012 argued removing the current levy on insurance companies would save the average household about $250 a year on home and contents insurance.

Hitting the hip pocket

  • Lismore City Council rates, waste, water and waste water charges combined to rise by $140 a year.
  • Byron Shire Council rates to rise by an average of $129 a year.
  • Proposal by the Federal Government to raise Medicare levy to 2% generating $20.4 billion by 2019 to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

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