QLD fire levy "case-by-case" says government

Queensland craft brewers are reportedly facing a 900 per cent hike in fire levies less than a year after the state government announced a Craft Brewing Strategy supposed to support the growth of the industry.

At the end of last week a raft of brewers received notices from their councils informing them of the increase in the state’s emergency management levy.

According to the updated Fire and Emergency Service Regulation 2011 a brewery with a gross floor area of less than 15,000 square metres, a category which most craft brewers would fall into, now has to pay up to $5,224.20 annually.

A spokesperson for the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services department said the objective of the levy was to introduce a category for craft breweries and distilleries “that more appropriately aligned with the size and nature of businesses of this type.”

They said that the changes were down to a recent audit which revealed “instances of businesses being misclassified under a different category.”

“As a result of the audit, a number of businesses this financial year may be charged a levy in the brewery or distillery category for the first time,” they said.

“In recent years, many small and medium-sized craft breweries and distilleries have emerged across Queensland.

“The fast-growing industry has dramatically changed the landscape of brewing in Queensland since the introduction of the EML system in 1984.

“Recognising this change, the Queensland Government acted accordingly by amending regulation from July 1.”

In some cases brewers have reportedly seen a 900 per cent rise, although not all brewers have received notice of an increase.

Queensland Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, Cameron Dick, who announced the Craft Brewing Strategy late last year to great fanfare, appeared to weigh in on the argument over the weekend.

However a spokesperson for his department said today that the levy was not administered by them and breweries will have to work with councils on a “case-by-case” basis. No guidance was offered as to what that basis might be.

The Urban Fire Levy Scheme was introduced in 1984 to partially fund the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. It was reformed in 2013 into the Emergency Management Levy, and applies to nearly all properties within Queensland.

An older iteration of the levy declared that breweries (“other than a brewery for which most of the brewed product is served on the premises where it is brewed”, better known as brewpubs) would pay $80,419.60 annually for the levy. It initially did not give smaller breweries their own class of levy.

Bigger breweries (with a gross floor area of more than 15,000 square metres) now pay up to $91,168.20 annually for the fire services levy.

The Queensland representative of the Independent Brewers Association did not reply to requests for comment.

Brewers looking for more information or to check their classification should check out the EML unit on the QFES website or call 07 3635 3041.

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