Albany ‘never in hunt’

By Grace Jones | posted on March 7, 2019

MEMBER for Albany Peter Watson has been criticised for saying the City of Albany was “never” going to win the tender for the WA Bushfire Centre of Excellence due to its isolation.

Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Steve Thomas said the whole tender process was a “furphy” and it was always going to be awarded to Perth.

Last week, Premier Mark McGowan announced the $18 million centre would be based in the Shire of Murray in the Mandurah suburb of Nambeelup.

Dr Thomas said it was a victory to have the centre located in a regional area rather than in metropolitan Perth. He stated Mr Watson’s comments, made in a recent media publication, were evidence that the State Government never considered Albany seriously as a potential site.

“In my eyes it says the whole tender process was a furphy,” he said.

“The campaign we ran to make sure it wasn’t based in the metro area was the only reason it had got over the line.

“It was absolutely going to go to Perth.”

In April last year, Minister for Emergency Services Francis Logan announced the centre would be built in line with a recommendation made by the 2016 Waroona Bushfire Special Inquiry.

Dr Thomas said naming the joint bid made by Albany, Denmark and Plantagenet as a finalist in the process was a “lie perpetrated by the McGowan Government”.

“It was always between Perth and Pinjarra, never Albany,” he said.

“It would have been a slap in the face if it went to the metro area.

“I suspect that Albany was never in the hunt to begin with.”

Mr Watson said while the decision may have been disappointing for the City of Albany he understood that an “Expression of Interest process was followed and that Nambeelup was chosen as it met all the criteria”.

“I find it very disappointing that Dr Thomas is undermining this announcement, which I might add he supports,” he said.

“He is attempting to sow division amongst our dedicated volunteers in WA.”

Mayor Dennis Wellington said it was “just unfortunate” that Albany wasn’t the chosen site for the centre.

“Location was always going to be our problem and a deciding factor,” he said.

“I think we were considered since we applied but it was out of our hands.”

Mr Watson said the centre would provide skills in bushfire management and would host volunteers from the Parks and Wildlife Service, Forest Products Commissions and private companies from across the whole state.

“The Bushfire Centre of Excellence is a statewide facility that will benefit all firefighters from across WA, including the Great Southern,” he said.

Final building plans for the Bushfire Centre of Excellence are expected to be finalised in the coming months.