Council amps up fight for Fiskville

The state government should move to compulsorily acquire land in Ballan if no suitable site for a new CFA training facility can be purchased, council has said.

Moorabool Shire Council has written to Emergency Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley and emergency services minister James Merlino to ensure the critical community facility is built in the town.

They say retaining the facility in the area is critical to Ballan’s economic future and job security.

CFA’s major training facility Fiskville was closed in 2015 after toxic chemicals were found on the site.

The closure was a major blow to the township which largely relied on the employees at the facility for business.

The state government pledged to build a new facility but has so far been unable to secure a suitable site.

The idea of compulsory land acquisition was first mooted by former emergency services minster Jane Garrett in February. 

In April’s budget that state government committed $46.2 million to establish a new firefighting training centre and upgrade the training facility at Huntly.

In that announcement the government said the facility would be located in the central highlands area – causing concern among Ballan residents that the facility would be built elsewhere. 

But Mr Lapsley has maintained Ballan remains the most preferred location for a new central highlands emergency management training centre with hot fire capability. Mr Lapsley said significant work had been done to secure the site in Ballan however appropriate land had yet to be secure. 

“I understand the community has felt considerable economic and social impacts since the closure of the Fiskville Training Centre,” Mr Lapsley said. 

“The Moorabool Shire is an integral part of the work to find potential locations within the council area.  CFA will continue to identify potential sites and conduct negotiations.”

Moorabool Shire deputy mayor Paul Tatchell said discussions with Mr Merlino and Mr Lapsley had led him to believe Ballan was still the front-runner for the facility location.

He said a decision to move it elsewhere would severely impact Ballan. 

“If that happened (no facility for Ballan) it would be fairly disingenuous. I think it would be mandatory (that there was a facility,” Mr Tatchell said. 

 A community petition has been lodged on change.org.