NSW Govt looks to pass the buck on RFS assets

Council’s across New South Wales including North Sydney are voicing their concerns about the State Government's latest Audit Office Local Government Report, which has determined that Rural Fire Service (RFS) assets will be the property of Councils for accounting purposes.

This means that RFS equipment will be recorded in all Council financial statements, forcing local governments to absorb depreciation costs and stocktake the items, even though they are owned and controlled by local brigades, not Councils.

Council supports all local RFS brigades and the valuable work they do. At its July meeting, our Council voted to support the Local Government NSW campaign to advocate on behalf of the Council sector to obtain clarification from the State Government about the accounting treatment of RFS assets. The full resolution can be read below.




1. Council writes to the Treasurer the Hon Matt Kean MP, Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience the Hon Stephanie Cook MP, the Minister for Local Government Wendy Tuckerman MP and Felicity Wilson MP and Tim James MP: 

a. Calling on the NSW Government to take immediate action to permanently clear up inequities and inconsistencies around the accounting treatment of Rural Fire Service (RFS) assets by acknowledging that rural firefighting equipment is vested in, under the control of and the property of the RFS; and 

b. Amending s119 of the Rural Fires Act 1997 so that the effect is to make it clear that RFS assets are not the property of councils.

2. Council writes to the Shadow Treasurer Daniel Mookhey MLC, the Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib MP, the   Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren MP, the Greens Spokesperson for Local Government Jamie Parker MP and the leaders of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, Animal Justice and One Nation parties Robert Borsak MLC, Emma Hurst MLC and     Mark Latham MLC: a. Advising Members of (North Sydney Council’s) position, including providing copies of correspondence to NSW   Government Ministers; and b. Seeking Members’ commitments to support NSW Councils’ call to amend the Rural Fires Act 1997 as set out in correspondence. 

3. North Sydney Council writes to the Auditor General advising that notwithstanding any overtures of future qualified audits, it will not carry out RFS stocktakes on behalf of the NSW Government and will not record RFS assets in (North Sydney Council’s) financial statements, noting that the State Government’s own Local Government Accounting Code of Practice and Financial Reporting provides for councils to determine whether or not they record the RFS assets as council assets.

4. Council promotes these messages via its digital and social media channels and via its networks. 

5. Re-affirms its complete support of and commitment to local RFS brigades noting that North Sydney Council’s action is entirely directed towards the NSW Government’s position that, rather than being owned and controlled by local brigades, RFS assets are   somehow controlled by councils, which councils consider to be a cynical financial sleight of hand abdicating the NSW Government’s responsibilities at the cost of local communities. 

6. That North Sydney Council affirms its support to Local Government NSW (LGNSW) and requests LGNSW continue advocating on behalf of the sector to obtain clarification finally from the State Government about the accounting treatment of RFS assets.

Posted on 2 September 2022

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North Sydney Council