FARMERS in regional Victoria are welcoming the move from the Fire Services Levy to a property levy, to be collected with rates.
The bill was introduced to parliament yesterday and will come into effect on July 1 next year.
It followed concerns the levy was a “tax on a tax”, costing farmers up to 95 per cent of the cost of their insurance premiums, plus GST and stamp duty.
Victorian Farmers Federation president Peter Tuohey said the new funding model was “a major improvement”.
He said the VFF had for years been calling for the levy to be dumped and replaced with a fairer property-based tax.
“The old model meant those who didn’t insure or were underinsured got a free ride, while others were paying more than their fair share,” he said.
“The new funding system will have a much broader collection base and will help fix the inequity that’s plagued regional Victorians for years.”
Premier Ted Baillieu said the state government’s reform would save households and businesses across the state more than $100 million a year.
“We have listened and acted on the concerns of the many Victorians who said the fire services levy was unfair and inequitable,” Mr Baillieu said.
“These changes will ensure everyone contributes a fair share to the fire services, not just those who adequately insure their properties.”
In line with recommendations from the Bushfires Royal Commission, the new model will be based on a flat charge of $100 per residential property and $200 per farming enterprise.
The reform will also introduce a $20 million concession scheme for pensioners and veterans.
Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said the government had delayed the reforms that were well overdue.
“The Coalition government passed its own deadlines to have begun the transition to the new arrangement, which was supposed to be under way on July 1,” she said.