Future remains uncertain for former South Warrandyte Fire Station
by SANDI MILLER
4th April 2022
AS DISCUSSED in the March Warrandyte Diary, the future of the former CFA Station in Brumbys Road, South Warrandyte, is uncertain with the CFA putting the site up for auction.
Member for Warrandyte, Ryan Smith, pointed out the property is required to be offered to other government bodies, including Manningham Council, on a first-right-of-refusal basis, which had not happened.
The Diary understands that the auction has been postponed, and this first-right-of-refusal process has commenced.
Former South Warrandyte CFA Captain, Greg Kennedy acknowledges the CFA has made an investment in providing the new station in Falconer Road.
However, he notes the current fire station in Falconer Road has no different facilities than the FRV stations at Ringwood, Nunawading,
Croydon or Templestowe.
“The CFA has done nothing special with this facility.
CFA has a statutory obligation to provide the infrastructure, including buildings and equipment, to discharge its duties under the Act.
The CFA made the decision to upgrade the facilities at South Warrandyte to include career staff — this was simply the CFA undertaking the function that it has responsibility for.
There were no favours, nothing special, so there are no grounds for accolades.”
Mr Kennedy said the greater Warrandyte community appreciates the high bushfire risk level in this area, and the community support has been and continues to be significant.
Each of the brigades in the area — South Warrandyte, North Warrandyte, Warrandyte and Wonga Park — have over the years appealed to the
community for financial support.
“The community has been very generous, and I estimate that over the past 40 years, our community has provided at least $2 million to the
annual brigade appeals,” he said.
He said the level of support and commitment our community has towards their CFAs is exemplified by Fireball.
“In 2014, North Warrandyte brigade were raising funds to replace their ageing brigade owned tanker by holding a sausage sizzle outside
Quinton’s IGA on Saturday, February 8.
The next day a fire destroyed three houses in Warrandyte.
Julie Quinton was gobsmacked that the volunteers had to sell sausages to raise money to buy a fire truck.
Julie and a few colleagues then organised a one-night event, Fireball, which raised a little over $80,000 in the one night — to me, that’s a
community that gives.
North Warrandyte CFA was able to replace its truck.
Over the next three years, two more Fireball events were held, raising more than $80,000 on each occasion.
Warrandyte brigade replaced their ageing slip-on, and South Warrandyte replaced their FCV.
COVID came along and delayed Wonga Park’s opportunity to benefit to date.”
Local government and services clubs have also provided additional financial support to the Brigade.
He said the brigades used these funds to provide members with appropriate protective clothing in the earlier years, additional equipment,
including hoses and couplings, and additional appliances.
“The contribution has been significant and has saved the CFA financially,” Mr Kennedy said.
He said the Greater Warrandyte community has financially supported their CFA brigades with significant contributions over a very long period.
“It is now opportune for the CFA to return the favour,” he said.
As we go to print, Manningham Council has not been offered the property under the first-right-of-refusal provisions.
Lee Robson, Acting Director of Planning and Community, told the Diary: “While there has been recent discussion in the community around
the former CFA site in Warrandyte South, Council has not identified this location as a strategic site for community use.”
He said the site has a heritage overlay with very restrictive controls, but when Council receives notification, the property will be
Mayor of Manningham Michelle Kleinert said there are several issues that Council must consider, including potential users of the facility, what expenditure will Council need to undertake to bring the facility up to the required standard, and whether the potential user of the facility is willing and capable of making a financial contribution towards the necessary works.
Expressions of interest Mr Kennedy said now is the time for community groups interested in the property to come forward.
Let the Diary know if your community group could use the old South Warrandyte Fire Station, in what capacity, and whether you could make
a financial (or in-kind) contribution to the upkeep of the facility.
The Diary will collate details for the working group, headed up by Mr Kennedy, who will make a submission to Council.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to show your interest.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: re Brumbys Road Fire Station
The above property has recently been advertised for sale by the CFA.
The advertising of the same has made a few large assumptions about future use which conflict with current zoning and planning, but as a long-term resident of Warrandyte (20 plus years) and a long-term reader of the Warrandyte Diary, I would like to offer a comment as a first time contributor.
The Warrandyte Diary has a rich background of the history of the fire station at Warrandyte South over many years as I have read with interest.
I do not propose I know the full history, but I offer my thoughts and views to gauge if others within Warrandyte have similar thoughts, other ideas to what is a great locally owned and built asset that deserves to be utilised by those that built it.
By way of short history, the station was established thru the generosity and sweat of local Warrandyte people- the land was, thru a special council subdivision, donated for use as a fire station for the local CFA brigade, the construction was mostly thru donated labour and materials by Warrandyte south residents and CFA volunteers.
This was a community at its best.
With the growth and merger with the MFB to new facilities in Park Orchards, the site was deemed an engineering and research site for a few years.
The site was offered to council for other purposes of use to the community, but in my opinion the offer was confusing and lacked clarity and sadly any interested party, never ventured any further back in 2017-19 when it was offered.
The current sale process will see any funds put into a “special capital account” with the CFA/MFB according to the current property officer of the CFA.
My concern is if they are successful in achieving a possible windfall of $900,000 plus, will these funds be domiciled to the Warrandyte community or to the wider pool of CFA/MFB? I note the main CFA pumper truck is ten years old and as we have just finished donating for a fire support vehicle for Warrandyte South, could this money be directed/restricted to those and the area that made this CFA/MFB windfall happen?
I would not enjoy being involved again in a drive to fundraise for a support vehicle and equipment for one of Australia’s most highly rated fire zone’s, when our treasured local Warrandyte volunteers should have the best and newest equipment, but his “windfall” disappeared into the ethers of the combined CFA/MFB with unknown use or purpose.
As to a future use, I am sure if it was again offered to the local community as a re-purposed asset and location that the words local, community, involvement, have changed in the new COVID world, since a technically confusing offering back some 5-3 years ago.
We now live in a different world and such a significant asset built with local goodwill, has a future better than the real estate agent’s offering as a brewery etc!
My family and I would be prepared to offer up adjoining land for use as a community garden to assist a possible use as a not-for-profit community café/ artist display etc and in some way recognise the locals that gave and made the site a reality.
Warrandyte Men’s Shed still homeless
By CHRIS CHEWY PADGHAM
WARRANDYTE MEN’S SHED
AS SOME OF you may know, a group of men from the Warrandyte Community have been working to establish a Men’s Shed in Warrandyte.
A Men’s Shed is a men’s health initiative aimed at improving the mental and physical health of older men in our community through social
inclusion in an environment that is meaningful and comfortable for men.
The success of Men’s Sheds throughout Australia and abroad is a testament to the valuable contribution that they make to the welfare of the community in which they are present.
I have been working on the establishment of a Men’s Shed in Warrandyte for the last five years, and it is fair to say that everyone I have
spoken to agrees that it would be a magnificent asset for Warrandyte, including Manningham Councillors, and our State and Federal Members of Parliament.
There is one major obstacle in our progress: a suitable site to house it.
Imagine my pleasure when it became apparent that the old South Warrandyte CFA building was available for Council to acquire.
It is fit for purpose and ideally located close to public transport.
However, Council’s current position on the old South Warrandyte Fire Station is: “the South Warrandyte Fire Station has not been identified
by Council as a strategic site for acquisition.”
And its position on finding an appropriate site for a Warrandyte Men’s Shed is: “work is being undertaken by officers to identify existing Council-owned land that may be suitable for community
focussed uses such as a Men’s Shed.”
For five years, I have heard that line.
It seems it takes the council a long time to identify their own land.
It is frustrating, but we will continue to meet at the Scout Hall, which is falling down because of council neglect.
I worked with the council to specify appropriate upgrades to address its glaring deficiencies.
That was completed in July 2021; the last informal word I had was that it might make it into the budget for 2023/2024.
I know councils like to think of themselves as businesses these days; a key performance indicator for them is the provision of appropriate and
well-maintained facilities to benefit the community.
From my perspective, Manningham Council is comprehensively failing Warrandyte on this KPI.
Community history for sale
By SANDI MILLER
PAST AND PRESENT members of the South Warrandyte Fire Brigade and other members of the broader Warrandyte community are dismayed as the Country Fire Authority has placed the old South Warrandyte fire station on Brumbys Road up for sale.
Greg Kennedy was a member of the South Warrandyte Fire Brigade for 36 years, holding the office of Captain on two occasions, Lieutenant at various levels on several occasions, and President, Secretary and Treasurer.
He said he was “disgusted” to see the former fire station in Brumbys Road advertised for sale.
“Whilst the CFA is undoubtedly the owner of the land and therefore entitled to dispose of the property and everything that is built upon the land, there is a moral obligation for the CFA to take fully into account the history of this site.”
Mr Kennedy provided the Diary with a background of the site; he said the land was acquired in 1954 for the token amount of 40 pounds from Mr Pridmore.
The Pridmore family was very grateful for the assistance of brigade members in searching for their young son, who had become lost in the area.
“It is unclear who provided the funding, but I have been reliably informed by members from that time that the brigade raised the necessary monies — not the CFA.”
After a delay of two years, a rural shed donated by a resident was erected on the site by the brigade members — no cost to the CFA.
In 1963, a building suitable to house an appliance was acquired by the brigade from a resident and erected, again by the brigade members.
Over several years, the shed was refurbished with additions of a meeting room and communications facility and eventually a brick façade.
The members sourced all the materials and provided all of the labour.
The brigade undertook the supply and erection of the shed at no cost to the CFA on the understanding that the brigade would be provided with an Austin tanker as soon as there was somewhere to house the appliance.
The CFA honoured the undertaking, and an Austin tanker arrived in 1963.
By the early 1980s, the facilities were inadequate.
The brigade approached the CFA and was advised that a new station was scheduled, but not for at least 10 years.
Under the leadership of Captain Les Dixon, the brigade went about designing a new station with assistance from a local architect who provided his service pro bono.
Additional land was required to house the new building.
The brigade negotiated on behalf of the CFA to acquire an additional parcel of land adjoining the existing site.
“I recollect that the CFA paid for the additional land, but the purchase price was well below market value — the only cost to date for the CFA,” said Mr Kennedy.
The CFA approved the plans and agreed to allow the brigade to construct the building provided the brigade met
all costs — and that is precisely what the brigade did.
The brigade went to the South Warrandyte community and, through various fundraising activities, raised a little over $100,000.
The brigade members then undertook the building of the station.
Working bees were held most evenings and every weekend, and all brigade members freely gave their time.
Local tradesmen — carpenters, electricians, roofers, cabinet makers — gave their time without payment.
Materials were donated by various residents who were involved in the building industry.
Corporates were encouraged to provide materials with plant hire company, Wreckair Ltd, providing all types of machinery weekend after weekend for no charge.
Mr Kennedy said the only other financial contribution made by the CFA was $30,000 to assist in the final fit-out of the station.
“This contribution was made very late in the building program and only after the then Chairman Mr O’Shea was embarrassed by what he found the brigade had achieved without any financial support from the CFA.
“To me and the many members and especially former members of the brigade, the fire station in Brumbys Road, holds a very special place in our hearts — we toiled long and hard both in fundraising and construction to provide ourselves and our community with a decent facility with virtually no financial assistance from the CFA.
“The facility was provided by our community, for our community.
“The CFA may own the land, but it can never own what has been built — it belongs to us.
“To simply have this facility placed on the open market for sale shows no understanding of the history and importance of the facility.
“For the CFA to expect to pocket $900,000+ with no recognition of what the community has contributed is a heartless act.
“This is a community facility, built and paid for by the community.
“Morally, it belongs to the community,” Mr Kennedy said.
Valerie Polley of the Warrandyte Historical Society (WHS) notes the site is protected under a historical significance overlay.
She told the Diary that the site is an important part of the town’s history.
“The Warrandyte Historical Society is concerned that this heritage- listed building could be lost to the community.
The fire station is listed as of local significance on Manningham’s Heritage Overlay (HO27).
It has strong links back into the community.
This building which dates to 1986/7, used brigade (community) raised funds and CFA volunteer labour.
It was listed due to its ‘elegant and sympathetic adaptation of an organic design approach to a public building’. The citation felt it contributed to a future design for rural public buildings rather than a colonial vernacular, and WHS agrees.
WHS considers it detrimental to lose yet another well-designed community asset when there are local demands for premises, including for a Men’s Shed, which is currently homeless.
That its heritage values could also be compromised is also a big consideration.
WHS is hopeful that any changes will not lead to the loss of the building’s heritage significance and contribution to the architectural heritage of Warrandyte.”
Mr Kennedy said that during the planning of the new station, when he was Captain of the brigade in 2014, he met with then Chief Officer, Ewan Ferguson, to discuss the future of the Brumbys Road site.
“I received an assurance that no decisions on the future of the station had been made and none would be made without further consultation with the brigade — I accepted the word of the Chief Officer.
“On May 24, 2016, I wrote to the newly appointed CEO, Lucinda Nolan seeking assurance that the disposal of the fire station would be handled with care and compassion, bearing in mind the history of how the facility was provided.
“I received a telephone call from Lucinda Nolan again advising that no decision had been made and a consultative process would be undertaken at the appropriate time.
“To my knowledge, neither of these commitments have been honoured.”
He said the CFA as the property owner, clearly has a right to dispose of the property, but there should be at least some compassion and understanding given to those who hold the facility dearly.
“There are retired members of the brigade who are very upset by the current actions of the CFA.”
Mr Kennedy said the decision to list the property without any consultation is “immoral, heartless and totally inconsiderate”.
He said he hopes the CFA will reconsider and is prepared to accept a peppercorn payment if the facility becomes a community centre.
“After all, the investment by the CFA is minimal, but the investment by the South Warrandyte community is enormous.
“I cannot believe the CFA who promote themselves as ‘WE ARE COMMUNITY’ can so heartlessly place this property on the market without any consideration of the community – what am I missing here?”
A CFA spokesperson told the Diary the Authority is not in a position to gift properties to other parties, nor retain or sell them at undervalued amounts.
“CFA and the Victorian Government made a significant investment of
more than $6m in the acquisition of land and construction of a new and modern fire station in 2015 to serve the community of South Warrandyte and neighbouring areas.
CFA has an obligation to utilise its assets in the best possible manner to support our volunteer brigades, and the sale of surplus stations is a significant contributor to our program of station refurbishments and replacements, which benefit all CFA volunteers and our local communities.”
Despite being placed with a real estate agent, the Diary has been told the former South Warrandyte station property has recently been resubmitted through the First Right of Refusal process, which gives state and local government entities, including the Manningham Council, the ability to express interest in the property and purchase from CFA at the Valuer General’s valuation.
This process takes around 60 days, and if there is no outcome from the process, CFA will relist the property for public auction.
Promises broken on CFA Shed
RYAN SMITH MP
Member for Warrandyte
I RECENTLY raised a very important issue in State Parliament regarding the former South Warrandyte CFA station on Brumbys Road.
The former station has recently been listed for sale for close to $1 million, an exorbitant mark-up from the Manningham council evaluation of $120,000 in 2017.
I have been campaigning with local community groups for the past six years for the government to allow the community use of the building, ever since the multimillion- dollar integrated station in South Warrandyte was completed.
Every time that I have raised this issue with the government, I have been told that the station continues “…to meet internal needs and will do so for the foreseeable future — there are no immediate plans for the CFA to vacate or dispose of these premises.”
Locals I have spoken with have been rightly angered by this response as the station has stood largely empty over the last six years.
In April 2021, the acting Minister for Emergency Services wrote to me stating that : “Should the CFA determine in the future that the site is no longer needed, there will be an opportunity for the local council to purchase the property for community purposes.”
Four months later, in August, the minister wrote again stating that, if the land was deemed surplus by the CFA, it must be offered through a First Right of Refusal process to Victorian government departments as well as to local government, whilst again reiterating that the CFA still require the South Warrandyte station for the foreseeable future.
Through conversations with Manningham Council and volunteer CFA members, it appears there has been no offering of the former station for community use as promised by the government.
It has become apparent that the government’s only vision for community assets is to try to sell them in order to fill the bottomless black hole of state debt.
This is just another example of the difference between what this government says and what they do.
Each Minister I have written to was aware of the various community organisations that would have been interested in using the space, including a permanent base for the Warrandyte Men’s Shed, the Warrandyte Scouts, or a dedicated ambulance station for the Warrandyte area or even for the volunteers at South Warrandyte to return home.
This is another disappointing result for the communities of the Warrandyte electorate, who have continued to be let down by this government.
I will be pursuing this matter further to ensure that all proper processes were followed by the government.
If they have not, my community will be made aware that this government continues to ignore community needs and expectations.
I have asked the Minister to withdraw the station from the market and gift it to Manningham Council for community use or at least — at the very least — offer the property at a properly valued price as was promised.
I will continue to keep the community updated on any developments.