CONCERNED: Tallegalla farmers Tom and Jack Else are concerned about proposed changes to the emergency management fire and rescue levy for thousands of Ipswich land owners. The State Government says that
CONCERNED: Tallegalla farmers Tom and Jack Else are concerned about proposed changes to the emergency management fire and rescue levy for thousands of Ipswich land owners. The State Government says that "farmers with (multiple) parcels of farming land would only pay a single levy, provided the parcels border each other and are under the same ownership”. Rob Williams

State to raise thousands through your rates notices

THOUSANDS of Ipswich land owners are set to be slugged by the State Government with a levy which will see an additional $140,000 collected across the city for state coffers.

The council is writing to each and every one of the owners of 5611 vacant blocks affected in Ipswich to alert them to the impending emergency management fire and rescue levy (EMFRL) charges, which will appear on their rates' bills and have been described as a "rip-off".

The cost of the levy for vacant land is $6.25 per quarter for each block, or $25 per year.

Land owners with multiple blocks will be hit with a much larger bill when it is introduced in the April-June 2017 rate notice.

The EMFRL replaced the Urban Fire Levy from January 1, 2014. Prior to that only properties considered urban and serviced by the State Fire and Rescue Service paid the Urban Fire Levy.

Residents with dwellings currently pay $24.90 per quarter, or $100 per year for the levy and that will not change.

But the change will be noticed by those with multiple lots.

Ipswich City Council has since 1990 only issued one levy per rates assessment.

But it has only recently been discovered that the Fire and Emergency Act directs that the EMFRL should be levied for each lot or parcel of land. There was media backlash when the EMFRL was introduced in 2014 but the State has allowed councils to enact the changes, as they relate to vacant lots, in their own time.

Ipswich City Council has resisted enacting the change.

But that time is now up.

Cr David Pahlke, who will also be slugged an extra $25 per year on his own extra vacant block, said residents needed to know that the council was not collecting the levies or enacting them

"The Newman Government brought in the emergency management fire and rescue levy," he said.

"But when you have got four vacant lots it is a bit unfair you have got to pay levies on all four.

"So since 2014 we have resisted charging the 5611 blocks the levy, but now we have to.

"Despite our protests to the State Government and to the Local Government Association we have now been told we have to do it so in the next round of rate notices over 5600 properties will receive a notice including these levies, but it is not a council decision.

"It is the State Government telling us we have to.

"I have got 1540 blocks in my division where people will have extra charges levied in their next rates notice, when they haven't had to do it before.

"People will blame council, but they need to know this is not us."

Cr Paul Tully, the city's finance boss, said the anomaly was that council levied just one rates charge on owners with additional vacant blocks, as opposed to the new EMFRL.

"We don't slug people in terms of their rates in that way. We just regard it as one large property," Cr Tully said.

"If there are two vacant blocks they are rated as one property by us, but more commonly in Ipswich we have got a house and a vacant block.

"So people are going to be slugged owing to a new interpretation.

"We only collect that on behalf of the government, it is not our money.

"The unusual situation is that we will continue to rate them as if it is one property.

"So if you had a house and an adjoining vacant block the Valuer General issues one valuation, not two.

"So we are continuing to follow the State Government Valuer General methodology of regarding it as one block, but from a fire levy point of view it is regarded as two blocks.

"This seems very unfair."

A spokesperson for the Fire and Emergency Services Minister confirmed the EMFRL was introduced on all prescribed properties by the former Newman government "which were not previously subject to an urban fire levy - that is, all prescribed properties outside defined urban districts".

"Since its introduction, the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 has required the levy be collected by local governments.

"Levy audits identified that some councils were not applying the levy correctly. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) has been working with those councils, including Ipswich City Council."

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