By Sam Norris – 21 Jul 2016
BEYOND frustrated with sub-standard conditions Karuah Rural Fire Service has broken ranks in its fight for a new shed.
The acting captain Ken Smee has revealed a long list of problems from structural cracking to flooding and improper facilities for men and women working in close quarters.
“We’ve done everything by the book until now and it’s got us nowhere,” he said.
“They were saying 2018 now it’s 2020. If they don’t spend some money it’s going to fall down before then.”
The besser block walls have begun to sway and separate, propped up with lengths of timber. Port Stephens Council says it has made the premises safe but the volunteers say it’s a nightmare.
Women are well represented among the 20 members but there’s just one toilet and no hand basin.
There’s only cold water to the single shower and the “office” consists of a foldout camp table in the spare vehicle bay.
A bookshelf sits on bricks to keep it out of the water when the shed regularly floods and a fax-printer sits across the shed on a work bench next to a peg board.
A strip drain – a plastic channel and metal grill design – was installed outside the main doors but cracked under eight tonnes of truck.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington took up the matter with the Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Services Daryl Maguire.
“It is expected that the development application for the new Karuah Brigade Station will be completed in the 2016-17 financial years, with building expected to be complete in the 2019-20 financial year,” he wrote in reply.
“I am advised by the NSW RFS that the Karuah Brigade Station is listed for priority replacement. In recent years maintenance of the station has been minimal because of its planned replacement.”
Lemon Tree Passage RFS had its plans approved last month with work expected to start within six months.
“It is outrageous that the Minister [David Elliott] would expect local fire fighters to work in deteriorating conditions, with no relief in sight until possibly 2020,” Ms Washington said.
“Why has Karuah fire station been allowed to crumble while other areas get new stations?”
Opposition spokesman for emergency services Guy Zangari looked over the shed on Tuesday with Ms Washington.
“We’re calling on the [state] government to fast track this now,” he said.
“You can’t have a building held together with four-by-two and bolts.”
A spokesman for the council said volunteers were not at risk.
“A structural engineer has assessed the building and deemed it safe,” he said.
“Council undertakes regular routine maintenance on all RFS facilities in the Port Stephens LGA.”
The Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott had not responded to questions by deadline.