As the Examiner Newspaper article below explains, the new Bedfordale Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade was only possible because of an enormous amount of fundraising and advocacy work on behalf of the Brigade’s amazing team of volunteers and a very supportive Local Government.
The association acknowledges the Department’s decision to direct some Emergency Services Levy (ESL) toward the build, but the fact that it made up less than a quarter of the amount required goes to the heart of our ongoing advocacy for 100% transparency of how the ESL is spent.
For context, ESL is collected by Local Governments on behalf of the State and the way it is spent is determined by DFES. In the 2019-20 financial year, DFES received around $405,000,000 from Local Government rate-payers. More than half ($225,321,000) was spent on Employee Benefits (including the 1,200 Career Fire and Rescue firefighters), $37 million on Plant and Equipment Hire, $7 million Travel Expenses, and $27 million in total for all the Operating and Capital Grants funding of both Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades and the State Emergency Service in 121 separate Local Governments. While we do not support the ESL collected simply being returned back to the Local Government from which it came, it is significant to note that rate-payers in the relatively high-risk area of the City of Armadale have contributed around $75 million to ESL over the last 10 years and been granted less than $4 million – for its Bush Fire Brigades and SES Units.
Again, the article below is a positive one that documents the creation of a very important community asset that will allow volunteers to serve and protect hundreds of thousands of people, their property and our unique wildlife for decades to come. However, it would never have been built if the Local Government and dedicated volunteers hadn’t contributed more than 75% of the build cost. That is the true highlight of this story, noting that hundreds of other Brigades around WA without the resources they need to protect their communities simply don’t have the local capacity to make up the significant shortfalls in what is made available via the murky processes that determine how our Emergency Services Levy is spent.
Examiner Newspapers: New era in fire fighting
The new volunteer fire station in Bedfordale was officially opened last week with a special event commemorating the opening.
Located on Admiral Road in Bedfordale, the $1.7 million facility has the capacity to act as an incident control centre during major operations.
Featuring four vehicle bays, improved training and communications facilities as well as the capacity to cater for growing personnel numbers and additional vehicles.
The new building is significantly larger than the brigade’s former headquarters, which were built by members of the brigade more than 35 years ago.
Members of the Bedfordale Brigade said they will miss the old station due to its significance in the operation of the brigade but are excited about the new facilities.
The facilities also include an entertainment and barbecue to allow the brigade to cater for community events and functions.
The State Government supported the construction of the facility with a $372,000 Emergency Services Levy grant and $51,000 for water tanks as part of the WA Recovery Plan, while the City of Armadale contributed $1.2 million and the brigade’s volunteers fundraised more than $54,000.
Emergency Services Minister Reece Whitby joined Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM and City of Armadale Mayor Ruth Butterfield to open the station.
“This station not only provides improved amenities and training facilities for local firefighters, but importantly, it has the capacity to act as an incident control centre during major operations,” he said.
Annalise Hunt | Examiner Newspapers