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Acting CFA Chief Officer Alen Slijepcevic, Member for Buninyong Geoff Howard, Emergency Services Minister James Merlino and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley at the announcement of the new $31m CFA training site for Ballan. Photo – Helen Tatchell
Acting CFA Chief Officer Alen Slijepcevic, Member for Buninyong Geoff Howard, Emergency Services Minister James Merlino and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley at the announcement of the new $31m CFA training site for Ballan. Photo – Helen Tatchell

By Kate Taylor

The state government has bought land near Ballan upon which it will build the replacement of the Fiskville Training Academy.

The $31 million Victorian Emergency Management Training Centre will be built near Ingliston Road, with the figure including the land purchase.

Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley, Acting CFA Chief Officer Alen Slijepcevic, and Emergency Services Minister James Merlino visited the site last week to make the announcement.

The land is 35Ha, and was bought for an undisclosed amount –the centre will be an environmentally safe facility featuring hot fire and multi-purpose training pads as well as firefighting props and specialist training capability.

It will provide trainees with real life simulations of the emergency situations they may face on the front-line.

Member for Buninyong Geoff Howard said that construction is set to begin early next year, with the consultation and design phase set to begin immediately.

“Not only is this great news for the CFA volunteers and career firefighters it will provide a huge boost for the Ballan region,” Mr Howard said.

“The $31 million facility will provide direct jobs during and after construction as well as providing opportunities for local businesses to grow as CFA  and other emergency service crews come to train at the site.”

Council CEO Rob Croxford told the Moorabool News that regular planning approvals would still have to be sought for the project.

“We will work with the CFA though it’s design and planning process. Permits will be sought as required,” Mr Croxford said.

“It’s very early stages but we are very pleased with the announcement. Council advocated for this site, which will keep a CFA presence in Ballan and create local jobs for the community.”

Central Ward Councillor Paul Tatchell welcomed the investment in the region.

And he added a suggestion for the use of the old Fiskville site, once it is cleaned up.

“I’d like to see Australian Motorsport go there, it’s big enough, and if they’re going to turn Sandown racetrack into housing or whatever they’re using it for, this place is ideal for it,” Cr Tatchell said.

He noted that Ballan isn’t too far out of Melbourne.

“People who go to racing… well, they normally drive. There’s some great opportunities there if people can get over themselves, and

$100 million invested into the area would put a smile on some people’s faces.”

Ballan Fire Brigade Member Ian Ireland also welcomed the announcement.

“I’m pleased that we retained the site in Ballan, it gives an opportunity to have another industry,” he said.

But the area is still going to be short 60-odd jobs, with just two permanent positions set to be required at the new centre.

“As far as economic value to the town, there’ll probably be catering and that sort of thing, it will be beneficial, but because it won’t be an overnight place there’ll be no accommodation therefore it’s not going to create any positions like the ones that we lost.”

And the former site of Fiskville has not been forgotten.

“The other disappointing part is, they keep pounding on about the toxicity of Fiskville – but the inquiry was all about documentation for testing up to the mid-2000s, that was what they made their decision on. Since then there has been cross-checked testing on that property that have never been produced to let people know how toxic it is – yet this government continues to tell people how toxic it is.

“We would like to know as a community why aren’t they releasing that documentation?

“Fiskville is a locality, it appears in the postcode book, and these people need to know what the current situation is of Fiskville, because they need to know the truth.”