Councillors were reminded of both the benefits and the complexities involved in forming one enlarged rural fire district at Wednesday’s meeting of the Waitaki District Council, during a discussion on the transfer of assets to the Otago Rural Fire Authority.
Rural fire responsibilities were transferred to the regional authority on July 1 this year.
Questions were asked about forecasted funding shortfalls of the authority, particularly in the area of health and safety, and whether it was likely that council would have to contribute to the replacement of capital assets, like appliances, in the future. The implication was that council may be asked to contribute far more than originally thought.
Chief financial officer, Paul Hope, said council had been asked to commit the same level of operating funding to the new authority for the next three years. In his report, he said that a number of matters were still unresolved including how rural fire-related assets would be treated and how the new authority would be funded in the long term.
Mayor Gary Kircher said one known shortfall would be where this district’s volunteers had raised funds to purchase their own gear. Mr Hope added that the advantage of putting all of the region’s assets together was that health and safety issues would be addressed.
Customer services group manager, Richard Mabon, said that the initial group was faced with the challenge of bringing together six different authorities who were operating under six different models and he asked councillors to consider the scale of the task, the timeframe it was put together and the progress that had been made so far.
“I still believe it was the right thing to do. I think it’s a stand-out activity and that the regional approach is the right one.”
Mr Mabon said the concept would have taken years to get off the ground if every single detail had to be worked out before ORFA could officially be launched.
Council resolved to transfer all non-property assets to ORFA and to lease all required rural fire assets.
By LINDA MCCARTHY