A FORMER Campaspe Shire councillor has criticised council for not consulting with the community after introducing a $70 fee for Permit to Burn applications.
The applications are processed by the shire on behalf of the Country Fire Authority (CFA).
But Mr McDonald, who was on the council for 11 1/2 years and is also a member of the CFA, said he had not heard from the council and there had been no consultation as far as he could see.
‘‘It looks like a handball exercise to me,’’ he said.
‘‘I think there is merit in a review of the permit system but to just spring that on the community without any consultation ... I plan to write to council.’’
Once the fire danger period is declared each year by the CFA, the lighting of fires is prohibited unless authorised by the issue of a Permit to Burn.
Rural councils, where cropping is an agricultural practice, have historically issued the permits to primary producers within the declared fire danger period (generally November to April).
In 2016, eight applications were received, in 2017 the number increased to 260.
Councils who have introduced a fee have seen a decrease in the number of applications, as applicants can apply directly to the CFA or wait until the fire danger period is lifted.
Campapse Shire economic and community development general manager Keith Oberin said no community consultation was undertaken before introducing the fee.
‘‘Council will be contacting all 2017 applicants advising them of the introduction of the fee and should they not wish to pay for the service, they may seek a permit directly from the CFA at no cost,’’ he said.
‘‘Permits are not issued by the local CFAs but the regional office.
‘‘The CFA were advised that council was considering the introduction of a fee.’’
Mr Oberin said the 260 permits in 2017 were issued in 18 days.
‘‘This came at a considerable cost to the broader community,’’ he said.
‘‘The CFA have recently revised their guidelines and now suggest an inspection take place before approving an application and issuing a permit.
‘‘This requirement further increases the cost of providing a free service to a limited number of landowners.
‘‘Council has an adopted financial planning principle to seek and implement a cost recovery model.
‘‘The introduction of a fee for the consideration of applications for Permits to Burn is in line with this adopted budget principle.’’