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Sydney homeowners worse off

Detailed analysis of the NSW Government’s proposed Fire and Emergency Services Levy has found homeowners across Sydney will be left hundreds of dollars a year worse off, while high-risk industries and bushfire prone regions will be subsidised by families living in low-risk properties.

Using data from the NSW Valuer-General and the formulae contained in the Fire and Emergency Services Levy Bill currently before the parliament, the NSW Fire Brigade Employees’ Union found the average cost to a Sydney family will be nearly double the figure promoted by NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet in March 2017.

The proposed levy will replace the existing system that sees three-quarters of the cost of funding Fire and Rescue NSW, the Rural Fire Service and the State Emergency Service paid by insurance companies, with local councils to instead collect the new levy.

The research found the highest costs would be borne by residents of Bayside, Sydney, Hunters Hill, Georges River, Lane Cove, Northern Beaches, Mosman, North Sydney, Randwick, Sutherland, Waverley, Willoughby, and Woollahra councils, with an average homeowner facing a levy of $471 per year.

Homeowners from Inner West, Parramatta, Canterbury- Bankstown, Burwood, Canada Bay, Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, Ryde, and Strathfield council areas would pay an average levy of $361 per year.

The NSW Government will also see its own contribution to these emergency services almost halve, with approximately $70 million a year in costs shifted to the owners of homes and businesses.

The research found that the new levy failed to take into account risk factors, such as homes being in flood or bushfire-prone areas or businesses working with high-risk chemicals, meaning owners of low-risk properties would be forced to subsidise those with higher risks.

It also identified that despite commercial and industrial premises being responsible for 55 per cent of Fire and Rescue NSW call outs, they would only be required to pay 37 per cent of the levy.

Regional areas also face serious inequalities, with a flat rate for farmland — regardless of value — meaning the owner of a $4 million farm would pay less than the owner of a nearby residential home with a land value of $400,000.

NSW FBEU secretary Leighton Drury said the union had conducted the research as a result of the refusal by the NSW Government to provide detailed figures of what landowners will be required to pay until May 1 2017, after the legislation has gone through the parliament.

“NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian appears determined to ram this legislation through the parliament without consulting the community or even telling homeowners exactly what it will cost them,” Mr Drury said.

“It is simply unacceptable the millions of families and businesses will face a big new tax from July 2017, yet they have been told they need to wait until May 1 2017 to find out how much they will be left out of pocket.

“The Fire and Emergency Services Levy isn’t about tinkering at the edges of the current system, instead it is a brand new billion-dollar tax on property owners that will cost many households hundreds of dollars more each year.

“The NSW Government needs to release the actual costs to property owners now, before this legislation is passed.

“We also need a proper parliamentary examination of the major inequalities in this proposed levy, such as the fact that homeowners in areas of low risk will be forced to subsidise high-risk industrial facilities.”

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