Cessnock City Council secures $1 million under NSW Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund for Rural Fire Service shed upgrades

UPGRADE: Laguna RFS captain Andrew Jones, Cessnock MP Clayton Barr, Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent and Bucketty RFS president Louise Gee at the Laguna fire shed.
UPGRADE: Laguna RFS captain Andrew Jones, Cessnock MP Clayton Barr, Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent and Bucketty RFS president Louise Gee at the Laguna fire shed.

Eleven Rural Fire Service brigades in the Cessnock local government area will receive a share of $1 million towards shed upgrades.

Cessnock City Council secured the grant from the NSW Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, a joint state-federal package to support NSW communities impacted by the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.

The Bucketty and Laguna stations will undergo major upgrades - sharing more than $500,000 between them.

North Rothbury, Central (Cessnock), Benwerrin, Greta, Kearsley, Mulbring, Neath, Pokolbin, and Quorrobolong brigades will also benefit from the funding, with minor projects including toilet upgrades, roof repairs and lighting.

Laguna RFS captain Andrew Jones welcomed the funding.

"Our small truck bay will be expanded to accommodate a modern tanker, the outside toilet will be refurbished into male and female toilets and our training/meeting room will be expanded to include a kitchen and storage area," he said.

"The 2019/20 fire season showed just how important a functional station is to the community. This will allow us to be better prepared for the future."

Cessnock MP Clayton Barr said it's fantastic news and investment for our courageous and hardworking volunteers.

"Where better for a government to invest than in the RFS," he said.

"The $1 million tells us that we had quite a list of things that needed to be done at our various RFS stations. I'm sure this funding will allow us to tick a few off that 'to do' list."

Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said it's great news for the Lower Hunter RFS and local volunteer RFS Brigades.

"The role the RFS plays in our community is absolutely critical. We want to support them in any way we can as they are the first to help us in a crisis," he said.

"The funding means more capacity for larger fire trucks, more volunteers, improved functionality of briefing/training facilities and a safer facility for community volunteers. This will enable the communities within Cessnock to be better prepared and more resilient to future disasters."

The RFS worked closely with Cessnock City Council to determine the facilities to be included in the grant application.

There are 14 Rural Fire Service brigades in the Cessnock LGA, but the Wollombi, Rothbury and Millfield brigades were not included in the application because Wollombi received an upgrade under another bushfire grant program earlier this year, while plans are under way for new fire sheds for Rothbury and Millfield, and the grant program does not cover new infrastructure.

NSW RFS Lower Hunter district manager, Superintendent Martin Siemsen said the support from the council was "sensational" and that this funding would be greatly appreciated by those 11 brigades.

The project aligns with the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, by improving community resilience to future natural disasters. Upgrades will begin this year and be completed by June 2023.

Other local projects funded under this round of the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund include the Upper Yango fire and ecology restoration project ($382,075); A2E - Accelerating Event Economies ($861,476), a project that aims to attract large events to the Hunter; and Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association's Recovery and Resilience Program, which received $900,000.

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