From the Newsroom

CVC objects to NSW Government’s RFS ‘cost shifting’

Geoff Helisma


Councillors unanimously supported a mayoral minute (MM) tabled at the July 26 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, to “advise the NSW Audit Office, as requested by Local Government NSW (LGNSW), that CVC will not conduct the stocktake of Rural Fire Service (RFS) assets and will not record assets on CVC’s financial statements”.

Previously, at the September 22, 2020, CVC meeting, councillors unanimously supported making a “submission to the 2020 NSW Local Government Conference, requesting LGNSW to lobby the Office of Local Government”, regarding “discussions to develop a plan for removal of all RFS assets from council asset registers before June 30, 2022”.

Cr Tiley’s MM was reacting to a letter from the LHNSW president, The red fleet fight comes to a head, which drew attention to the “Auditor-General’s [AG] latest report on local government”.

“…the AG reiterates the state government determination that RFS assets are the ‘property’ of councils, who [sic] must therefore absorb all depreciation costs,” the LGNSW present wrote.

“This determination is nothing more than a financial sleight of hand, which would force councils to absorb significant depreciation costs for assets over which we [sic] have precisely zero management or control.

“Councils have no say in the acquisition of the assets, no involvement in their deployment, and none in their disposal.”

In his MM, Cr Tiley wrote, “Clarence Valley Council maintains NSW RFS assets, valued at $10.1m, on its registers.

“The assets are not under the care and control of council.

“The rate of depreciation of these assets is approximately $100,000 annually.

“Each year the auditor (TNR) requests a schedule of all RFS assets, which, if provided to us by the RFS, is reported as an unadjusted value as part of our annual audited statements.”

Clarence Valley Council’s annual audited financial statements for 2020/21 notes that “until such time as discussions on this matter have concluded and legislation changed, council will not recognise rural fire service assets including plant and vehicles”.

Consequently, the auditor wrote to then mayor, Richie Williamson, pointing out that: “CVC did not record rural fire-fighting equipment in the financial statements.

“Rural fire-fighting equipment, specifically the red fleet vehicles, is controlled by the council and should be recognised in their financial statements.

“This is supported by the requirements of the Rural Fires Act 1997 and service agreements between councils and the RFS.”