Although it provides an important service to the community—Baxter, Pearcedale, Somerville, Moorooduc and Mount Eliza—the Baxter CFA building is nearly 50 years old, and the current site is no longer suitable for an effective and modern-day fire brigade service. The station is grossly undersized and is wedged between private residences. There is no room for expansion, no opportunity for drive through and it is a very difficult situation for parking of members’ cars, and that is escalating every day. I have been approached by the Baxter fire brigade for assistance in finding a suitable site to relocate the station. This is an issue that I have corresponded with the government on now for many years. We have been seeking support for this relocation since I first raised this issue in Parliament in November 2017.
Baxter Park is a large reserve, situated on 59 hectares. Importantly, the site is easily accessible and has no residential component. It is a mere 1.6 kilometres from the site of the existing Baxter station and is centrally located to the service area that it supports. I can confirm the Baxter fire station requires just 3000 to 4000 square metres to adequately house a new station and associated activities. Areas within the Baxter Park precinct have been allocated to Melbourne Water—some 67 000 square metres, I understand. Early discussions between the CFA, the Baxter brigade and Melbourne Water resulted in the understanding that only 2000 square metres could be made available by Melbourne Water at that time, and that was considered to be insufficient. However, the brigade, the CFA and my own office reached out to Melbourne Water to ascertain whether there was an opportunity for further land to be made available for this critical local service, and in September 2020 the government liaison officer confirmed that while Melbourne Water was not trying to sell the land, it was certainly keen to have discussions.
During 2020 the Minister for Police and Emergency Services belatedly responded to my letter and said that she had determined that the proposal was unsuitable for several reasons, including that the land was smaller than the required size, had limited frontage and was surrounded by a reserve which may restrict access for emergency services. Clearly the minister was not across the detail. In addition to the favourable discussion between the Baxter brigade, the CFA and Melbourne Water, I am happy to confirm that the site is not surrounded by a reserve—it is actually part of a reserve. There are no access issues, and turnout facilities have been tested by the brigade itself. Additionally, the site has the same zoning as the brigade’s current location.
On 1 February 2021 the Baxter brigade was informed that Melbourne Water had identified the Baxter reserve site as being surplus to its needs. (Time expired)