Council: RFS assets are not our property

Published on 27 July 2022

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Murray River Council is voicing an objection to the NSW Government’s determination that local Rural Fire Service (RFS) mobile assets are the property of councils.

This long-standing dispute for many NSW councils over the accounting treatment of the assets has come to a head following the Auditor-General’s 2021 Report on Local Government, released in June this year.

The Audit Report reemphasises the State Government determination that RFS assets are the “property” of councils and must be recorded in Council’s financial statements.

This means councils, including Murray River, are required to absorb all depreciation costs.

“We’re joining councils across the State, along with Local Government NSW (LGNSW) in objecting to this ludicrous determination,” Mayor Chris Bilkey said.

“To say that mobile and other fire-fighting assets can somehow be deemed to be council assets applies more financial pressure on us, even though councils do not have effective management or control of these assets.” 

“It is such a nonsensical position which we consider to be a cynical financial sleight-of-hand abrogating the NSW Government’s responsibilities at the cost of local communities.”

Cr Bilkey said the council will join the majority of other NSW councils and resist the pressure to record the assets. 

“We will not be carrying out RFS asset stocktakes on behalf of the NSW Government and will not record RFS assets in Murray River Council’s financial statements.”

As per the Auditor’s Report, most NSW councils remained firm in 2021, with the majority (68) choosing not to record the RFS mobile assets in accordance with the Local Government Accounting Code. This was the same number of councils as in 2020.

Whilst Murray River Council is refuting the accounting determination, Cr Bilkey re-affirmed its complete support of local RFS brigades.

“Council’s action is entirely directed towards the NSW Government.”

Council will be calling on the NSW Government to take immediate action to permanently clear up inequities and inconsistencies around the accounting treatment of RFS assets by acknowledging that rural firefighting equipment is vested in, under the control of and the property of the RFS.

They are also joining the call to request that an amendment be made to s119 of the Rural Fires Act 1997 so that RFS assets are not deemed to be the property of councils.

Council will be making representation to local State Member, Mrs Helen Dalton, MP, the Treasurer the Hon Matt Kean MP, Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience the Hon Stephanie Cook MP and the Minister for Local Government Wendy Tuckerman MP on the matter.  


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