17 April 2024

'Testing times' ahead for northside frontline personnel, Gungahlin JESC almost ready to be re-opened

| Claire Fenwicke
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Gungahlin Joint Emergency Services Centre

Staff are expected to be able to move back into the Gungahlin Joint Emergency Services Centre in May. Photo: Laura Liu.

Gungahlin’s Joint Emergency Services Centre (JESC) will re-open by winter, three months after it was closed due to lead and diesel particulate contamination.

Remediation work has been ongoing since the contamination was discovered, but an independent report found “staff and volunteers were not exposed” to either contaminant.

Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman said deep cleaning was continuing throughout April.

“We’ll ensure that we have a safe workplace for them to move back into,” he said.

“We expect staff to be moving back in there at the end of May.”

ACT Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Phillips has tried to see the silver lining to the disruption, using the analogy of trying to live in a home while it’s undergoing a major renovation.

“If you get the opportunity to move out, you get out. The clean up, the remediation, we’re treating it like a major reno,” he said.

“We’re going to hit the ground really hard and knock it all out, and the few renovations that need to be done will be done concurrently with the remediation, then we’ll have a really good, updated building at the JESC.”

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There have been some concerns about overcrowding at the site, given it is an older building that’s home to police officers, ambulance staff, and Fire and Rescue personnel.

Rural Fire Service volunteers are currently operating out of a demountable in the rear carpark.

Mr Gentleman said the ACT Government was still developing the master accommodation plan for first responders.

“It will mean some testing times [for emergency staff], but it means they will have the appropriate opportunity to have the best space that we can provide for them on the northside,” he said.

“At the same, we’re moving through new builds and new construction as the city grows.”

A site has been found for the delayed Molonglo Joint Emergency Services Centre, and the government is also looking northside at potential locations for frontline workers.

According to the government’s Infrastructure Plan Update from February 2024, State and Emergency Service (SES) and RFS personnel will be moved to a new site in Mitchell, and the Gungahlin JESC will be refurbished to increase the operational footprint of ACT Policing.

“The redesigned Police Station will be able to accommodate 80 operating staff within a building footprint of 4200 sqm,” the document noted.

“Minor upgrade works have been funded as an initial phase of providing capacity.”

It was during this work that the contaminants were discovered. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2024.

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A new fire and ambulance station in Casey to support first responders is next on the cards and is moving to the design phase.

“The timeframe of completing all stages, including construction, is estimated within five years,” the plan stated.

“In the longer term, the ACT Government will also consider a potential new fire and ambulance station in East Gungahlin to enhance the station network.”

Commissioner Phillips said it was fortunate the high-risk weather season was over for this work to occur. The new home for personnel in Mitchell was expected to be completed by Christmas.

“Come the high-risk weather season, we’ll have all of my people in really nicely renovated, better properties on the north side of Canberra.”

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