Boat owners in Western Australia could be slugged with an additional fee after a report by the Economic Regulation Authority (ERA) recommended changes to the way marine rescue services are funded.
The state’s Volunteer Marine Rescue operation is currently funded through the Emergency Services Levy (ESL), a charge paid by all WA property owners.
However, a report by the ERA has recommended the $6 million-per-year service instead be funded by an increase in boat license fees.
ERA chair Nicky Cusworth said the ESL was designed to fund services that benefited the broader community.
“The benefits of the boat service are very specific to a particular group of people,” Ms Cusworth told ABC Radio Perth.
“We think it probably makes more sense that the money is raised from that group of people, rather than from property owners that might never go on a boat.”
But the proposal has prompted immediate opposition from rescuers and boat owners.
Volunteer Marine Rescue state commander Jeff Howe said the service did more than just tow boats in trouble.
“What they’re not considering is all the rock fisherman that get washed into the water,” Mr Howe said.
“The community has an expectation that marine rescue will be out there to recover [them].
“At the recent Yarloop bushfires Marine Rescue boats were deployed to take people off the beach.
“It is a community asset that actually works for the community as a whole — be it in bushfires, in times of crisis, in rock fishing.
“Those people don’t own boats.”
Smoke on the water as boaties fight change
Boating Industry Association president Mike Beanland said boaties should not be slugged twice.
“It seems [the ERA] wants every land owner that has a boat to now have to pay two emergency services levies,” he said.
“One for fire — which is predominantly what they’re saying the Emergency Services Levy is for — and one for boats.”
Boaties say marine rescue services should be deployed for emergencies only. (ABC News: Mark Bennett)
He also said more needed to be done to quarantine the rescue service for emergencies only.
“It should not be a baby sitting service,” he said.
“It shouldn’t be an RAC on the water, funded by the Government to tow people who couldn’t be bothered to check how much fuel they had in their boat before they left.”
The ERA has invited feedback on its recommendations.
“The report is only a draft,” Ms Cusworth said.
“If people want to raise issues that we haven’t addressed or agree or disagree with our recommendations, they’ve got a month to make some more submissions.
“We haven’t finalised our views on any of the issues we look at.”