'Enough's enough': CFA volunteers sick of waiting for promised station
Feb. 15, 2020
Mark Hatton is livid.
The Truganina CFA captain and his crew were promised a new fire station three years ago, but they are still "sitting in a tin shed feeling like a bit of a laughing stock around town".
In July 2017 the Andrews government announced fire stations would be built in Truganina and Wyndham Vale, in Melbourne's outer west, finally giving permanent hope to CFA crews that had been shuffling around from one temporary location to another.
The fast-growing community, between Werribee and Melton, had more than 20,000 residents at the 2016 Census.
Then emergency services minister James Merlino announced $7.5 million in funding to acquire land and build "permanent, modern fire stations", promising it would be completed by June 2019.
The land for the Truganina brigade has not even been acquired yet.
"The effect to morale is major," Mr Hatton said. People are scared to commit 100 per cent to the brigade because they don't know what the future is and where we're going to be.
"A few years ago, once the announcement was made, the morale was so high because we were going to get our bricks-and-mortar station, but we're still sitting in a shed.
These people are our frontline services and we need to back them.
"Every month we have a brigade meeting and I have to stand in front of everyone and say there's still no news on the fire station – and that's very, very frustrating to have to do that."
The volunteer brigade has 70 members on its books – 40 of whom are active – and will be celebrating its 80th birthday this year.
But Mr Hatton said his crew was feeling abandoned, despite risking their lives to help the community. Eighteen of his teammates were sent to help battle blazes in East Gippsland and NSW during this summer's bushfire crisis.
"And we don't get anything for it," Mr Hatton said. "We don't do it for the recognition, but I mean you've got to come to the party and give us our station. Enough's enough."
The bureaucratic quagmire around land acquisition, and the lack of engagement from the state government, had created an information vacuum, Mr Hatton said, with volunteers feeling increasingly precarious about their situation.
Land at the corner of Leakes Road and Davis Road intersection had been identified as a potential site for the new Truganina brigade after the vicinity was earmarked by the Victorian Planning Authority for an emergency services hub.
It's unclear why the site, where the Riverdale Village sales office is located, has not yet been acquired.
"When you see condolence motions in Parliament and MPs talking about the importance of CFA, there's a real vexing question of why this vital service hasn't been delivered here," Wyndham mayor Josh Gilligan said.
"These people are our front-line services and we need to back them."
The CFA said this week that while there were "some delays" in identifying suitable land, the process had begun. The state government, meanwhile, blamed the almost three-year delay on red tape.
"We said we'd build state-of-the-art fire stations in Truganina and Wyndham Vale and that's exactly what we're doing," Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said.
"The CFA has identified appropriate sites for both stations, and the process is moving forward. Delays were due to locating suitable sites that met response times and had council approval."
Riverdale Village was contacted for comment.
Sumeyya is a state political reporter for The Age.
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