By Colin MacGillivray
EMERGENCY service leaders say a devastating storm that rocked the north-central region earlier this month has shown a clear need for new and improved facilities in Kilmore.
The Victoria State Emergency Service, VICSES, Kilmore unit responded to hundreds of calls for assistance during and after the storm that began on June 9.
Falling trees damaged power lines, leaving thousands of people across the Mitchell, Macedon Ranges and Whittlesea municipalities without power, some for up to four days.
Heavy rain also created widespread damage, with a flood warning issued for Broadford’s Sunday Creek.
The VICSES Kilmore unit serves as a central emergency response hub for towns including Broadford, Lancefield, Wallan and Wandong.
Unit controller John Koutras said the group’s facilities were built in the 1980s and had become outdated.
He said the unit needed a new building to expand its operational capacity.
“The space is basically just a bunch of sheds tied together,” he said.
“The facilities are out of date. It’s not gender friendly at all, and we really want to get more women into the unit.
“At the moment we’ve only got a couple of toilets and one derelict shower. If we had anyone with a disability or mobility issues, there’s no toilets or shower facilities downstairs.
“I’ve got 18 people on a waiting list who want to join, and I’d love to have them on board – I just don’t have the space or the facilities to take them on.”
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan toured the unit last week and agreed the facilities were in need of modernisation.
She said she would push the State Government to fund a new building for the unit.
“We’ve had a reminder in the last few days of just how important the SES unit is and the work that they do,” she said.
“They are there when we need them, and I think the government should invest in their efforts and look at what infrastructure they need to ensure they remain strong as a unit.
“When you look at their existing building, and especially the state of the shed out the back, it’s not up to scratch.
“I hope the government takes that on board and examines what can be done to fund better facilities for them.”
Deputy unit controller Simon Halman said a newly-completed building for the VICSES Wangaratta unit had features he would like to see incorporated at Kilmore.
“They can drive in and drive out, so you don’t have to reverse trucks in. They’ve got heaps of space and training rooms, they’ve got male and female facilities,” he said.
“Ultimately we need a facility that is looking forward. This was probably okay in the 80s, but it doesn’t cater for us in 2021.”
Mr Halman said storms similar to this month’s were likely to become more frequent as the effects of climate change increased, making the unit’s capacity to cope with large-scale emergencies even more important.
Mr Koutras said the expansion of Mitchell Shire’s population would also place a growing strain on the unit’s capabilities.
“The shire is one of the fastest-growing areas in the state. We’ve got Wallan booming, and Kilmore and Broadford are growing as well. That means we’re going to have more and more responses and demand will be higher,” he said.
“The Hume [Freeway] is getting busier and the accidents are getting more intense, and our biggest fear is that we’re not going to be able to respond the way we need to because of the facilities that we have.
“We’re looking to the future and the future is catching up with us really quickly with the type of call-outs we’re getting.”