The Queensland Government’s much heralded Craft Beer Strategy has failed its first test with the State’s ‘Minister for Beer’ not even being consulted over a 900% increase in levies for small breweries.
Cameron Dick is the Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning and is responsible for developing Queensland’s showpiece strategy but Queensland Fire and Emergency Service has confirmed his department’s advice was not sought on the impact or appropriateness of changes to the Emergency Management Levy.
Craft breweries were shocked earlier this month to find that rates have been slugged up to $5,224.20 for the State Government’s Emergency Management Levy, from $527.80 last financial year.
The department responsible for the levy hike, Queensland Fire and Emergency Service, says it identified in “early 2019” that there was only one category of brewery under the levy classification, with breweries meant to be charged up to $89,162.20 last financial year.
In a statement to Brews News, Queensland Fire and Emergency Service said: “The Queensland Government recognised this placed small and micro-breweries and distilleries at a significant financial disadvantage, so acted quickly to address this. Separate levy categories were established for small and large breweries and distilleries.”
It moved to create a levy for breweries “smaller than 15,000 sqm”, or almost two-and-a-half football fields in size. A survey by Brews News of affected brewers shows the average size of affected breweries is less than 500 square metres, with none even approaching a quarter of the adopted size.
With many inner-city brewers limited to a production capacity of 200,000 litres per year, the ‘small’ brewery levy appears to have been pegged to that of the State’s two largest breweries, with CUB’s Yatala brewery able to produce one million cans (375,000 litres) per 12 hour shift.
By comparison, airfields, shopping centres up to 7,500 sqm, light or “offensive” industries up to 2,000 sqm and fuel storage and refineries with capacity of less than 1,000,000 litres are charged a maximum of $1,744.80. Light or “offensive” industries up to 1,125 sqm, closer in size and purpose as breweries, are charged a levy of no more than $1060.
David Kitchen, Queensland representative for the IBA, said that the increase was “ridiculous”.
“There was no consultation undertaken and notification until rates notices started to be received,” he said.
“I believe the decision was made in complete ignorance of what craft breweries are actually like, how big they actually are and how little flammable material they actually hold.”
A Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokesperson has given conflicting accounts of whether consultation occurred about the changes, with a statement to Brews News initially saying: “QFES consulted state and local governments prior to the legislative changes, including agencies working directly with craft breweries”.
A later statement acknowledged that the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, which administers the Craft Brewing Strategy, was merely informed of the changes by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
Brews News understands other departments were only given four hours notice of the change and were not consulted on the details or the impact it would have.
David Kitchen said that while the efforts towards developing a Craft Beer Strategy were “highly commendable” there were some areas of government that had not fully grasped the concept of small breweries.
“When the Craft Beer Strategy was originally raised following the State Government’s support for Brewdog, it was clear that the government had little idea Queensland already had a vibrant, growing craft beer industry.
“Now, I believe that in certain areas of the government, this is a very clear understanding of the size of the craft beer industry, it’s rapid growth, and perhaps most importantly, the economic benefits and jobs it is creating.”
Kitchen said that perceptions of the brewing industry seem to be based on two “non-Australian, non-tax paying companies” in mainstream beer, which he says “smacks of convenience and poor research”.
A Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokesperson has confirmed that no research was done to establish the average size, annual turnover or relative risk of small breweries in determining the appropriate levy class for small breweries, but that it was appropriate as “Taverns” are charged the same.
It is understood that industry representatives will meet with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services later this week.