Fire dam cost query after Horsham Rural City Council announced estimated value

THE proposed cost of a fire dam near Horsham has increased by almost $90,000. 

The Grampians Group of fire brigades – encompassing Laharum, Wonwondah, Brimpaen and Green Lake brigades – has pushed for the fire dam at Mockinya for a decade in order to resolve an insufficient water supply for firefighting south of Horsham. 

The proposed fire dam is located near the corner of the Henty Highway and Jallumba-Mockinya Road.  

Grampians Group officer Robert Kelm said the estimated cost of digging the fire dam in 2007 was $11,000.

He said the project was put on hold during the building of the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline. 

But he said GWMWater could not guarantee water supply from the pipeline in the event of a bushfire, so the fire dam project resurfaced. 

Mr Kelm said Horsham Rural City Council now estimated the project would cost up to $100,000 with a $40,000 feasibility study. 

Mr Kelm said a water audit in 2007 deemed the fire dam a suitable solution to resolve the water shortage between Wonwondah and Brimpaen. 

He said Mockinya was identified as a reliable location because it was an area that would harvest water. 

“It is a major concern that we aren’t getting the backing from certain personnel in the city council and they are putting obstacles in our way all the time. It’s getting ridiculous,” he said.  

Mr Kelm said advocates would continue to push for the fire dam.

“It is all hands on deck when the fire starts and we get water from where we can. The fire dam is the safest and easiest option,” Mr Kelm said. 

The council’s director technical services John Martin said regulatory processes had changed across the 10-year period. 

Mr Martin said standard assessments were in place and the council would follow them. 

Mr Martin said the $100,000 figure was only an estimate and the final cost would depend on the findings of the feasibility study. 

“If there are native vegetation requirements or a full cultural heritage management plan has to be made, then that adds to the cost,” he said.  

Mr Martin said a final decision on the Mockinya fire dam project would be made once the final cost had been determined. 

Hesaid the council would consider using unspent funds from council budgets of previous years to fund the project.

Wonwondah captain Jason Pymer said digging the fire dam was within a $10,000 budget and bureaucracy had hindered the project.

He said he and other residents of the community were disappointed about how the process had been handled. 

“We see it as an essential item and we cannot rely on the pipeline in a bushfire emergency,” he said. 

“We prefer water in a dam because nothing else is required. It is an essential strategy to our brigade in putting out fires.” 

The proposed fire dam would be six to eight foot deep and about the size of a small average dam. 

In the event of a bushfire, the fire dam would assist fire authorities and it would be used for aerial operations.