Fire brigade in limbo

    Riddells Creek Fire Brigade's current station at 67 Main Road no longer meets the needs of the brigade and doesn’t fit the current fleet of tankers.

    Amy Hume

    Riddells Creek Fire Brigade remains in limbo as the proposed site for its new station was all but struck out last week.

    Macedon Ranges Shire councillors voted not to pursue plans for the brigade’s relocation to Riddells Creek Recreation Reserve following community opposition.

    The Crown land reserve at 26-32 Sutherlands Road, zoned public park and recreation, was the only option the CFA had not discounted of more than 25 considered.

    Needs for both recreational land and a fire brigade operating to its fullest are both imperative to the growing town, and that was one of the arguments to emerge from public feedback.

    About 50 per cent of respondents expressed strong opposition to the site with concerns about access, parking and the impact the proposal could have on existing user groups.

    It was also noted the area had been designated for recreational purposes and the proposal could inhibit future expansion of the facilities within the reserve.

    Councillor Bill West said council had to try to get the best outcome for all parties.

    “It’s pretty obvious there’s going to be no universal agreement, and we’ve got to try and get the best outcome possible,” he said.

    Utilising Crown land would remove upfront site purchase costs for the CFA but, according to the council officer report, the CFA would be unable to assist the council to meet some of the costs likely to be associated with the relocation.

    In their feedback to the council, some residents opposed to the plan suggested the CFA should either renovate or extend at their existing location, both of which the CFA advised were not possible.

    The brigade was scheduled to receive a replacement heavy tanker in 2019 but was forced to refuse it due to the station’s limitations.

    Such an upgrade would have delivered larger capacity for water carry and a crew cab (not a luxury of the current vehicle), as well as other comforts such as air conditioning. It was a huge blow for one of the shire’s busiest brigades.

    That same year, local MP Mary-Anne Thomas announced the brigade would have a new $3 million station on a larger site by 2021.

    The new station was expected to feature a three-bay motor room, support and meeting areas, offices, turn-out areas for firefighters, as well as a kitchen, training yard, communications infrastructure, fencing and a car park.

    MRSC will write to the CFA requesting they continue to work with the council, state government and Riddells Creek community to find a suitable solution.

    This may include asking the CFA to reconsider other sites including those privately owned, negotiate further on proposed conditions from the council, or consider private properties becoming available in nearby locations.

    The council acknowledged some risk in delay, including potential ongoing limitation of operational ability for emergency response and removal of council and community input.

    As the Riddells Creek Recreation Reserve land is owned by the state government, there is a risk the council could be removed as Committee of Management for that portion of the reserve and lease the parcel of land to the CFA without council support.