Local Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall is straight back into it with the return of parliament this week, raising a number of local issues including the impact of the Emergency Services Levy, the future of the Bingara Fire Station, and violence at Armidale Secondary College.
Mr Marshall has given notice of a motion on the floor of State Parliament calling on the new government to reverse its controversial decision to reinstate and dramatically increase the Emergency Services Levy, a tax slugged on local councils and ratepayers to maintain the State’s fire, rescue and emergency services. He is demanding the government continue the policy of the last three financial years of NSW Treasury covering the cost of levy, rather than slugging local communities to maintain State Government owned and controlled services.
“Councils across the Northern Tablelands were only recently advised about the enormous increase – around 20 per cent – to their Emergency Services Levy liabilities for next financial year,” Mr Marshall said.
“The government has indicated that it will not cover the costs of the Levy imposed on local councils and their ratepayers, which had occurred the previous three financial years.
“This is not only incredibly frustrating for our local councils, the timing could not be worse with a lot of work being done to finalise draft budgets for next year.
“These ballooning levy liability costs will be met directly from the pockets of local ratepayers, resulting in less funds for councils to do the basics, fixing roads, maintaining local parks and gardens and keeping pools and libraries open.”
At a roundtable meeting of the region’s Mayors and General Managers, brought together by Mr Marshall last week, the issue of the levy increase drew unanimous alarm and condemnation, especially the impact it will have on their ability to maintain infrastructure and deliver services in their communities.
Mr Marshall said he would also be taking up a number of other issues raised at last week’s Northern Tablelands’ Mayors Roundtable meeting, including the Rural Fire Service ‘Red Fleet’ ownership debate, crime and housing pressures.
And, in stark contrast to his previous championing of the merger of Duval and Armidale High Schools as a good thing, the future of ASC is also on his to-do list.
“I’ll also be taking the issues on behalf of our local teachers and seek an immediate intervention and review of Armidale Secondary College, following a recent spate of serious incidents involving students at the school,” Mr Marshall said.
The comments follow video footage of violence at the school being shared on social media.
Mr Marshall also put a question on notice regarding the future of the Bingara Fire Station. In February this year, covert plans by Fire & Rescue NSW to close the Bingara station were blocked by the former Deputy Premier and Emergency Services Minister, but with a change of government and a fresh Minister, Mr Marshall said he wants a “cast iron guarantee” that a closure is still not on the cards.
“While a move to close it was defeated earlier this year, Gwydir Shire Council and many in the Bingara community are concerned that with a new government and a new Minister, Fire & Rescue NSW might try once more to withdraw its coverage and services.
“Under no circumstances can a closure of the station be allowed,” Mr Marshall said.
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