Rupert Isaac, East Ballina
Vince Kelly’s letter to Echonetdaily (13/3), and Margaret Howes (28/3), underestimate the potential offerings of a new Ballina fire station. Mr Kelly and Ms Howes argue against the deal with Fire Rescue NSW and the installation of a new fire station in the airport industrial estate.
Their concern was genuine; however, researching both options I’m glad Council selected Option B. Negotiated correctly, Council can force FRNSW to install a permanently manned station in Tamarind Drive servicing all residents and airport users, negating the need for Council to fund construction of an airport fire station only serving airport users. A permanently manned fire station provides greater benefit to the community then a heated swimming pool used by the same 200 people.
Ms Howes mentions a response time of three minutes is required and this can be achieved with a permanently manned station. If in the event the fire truck is at a fire or rescue in Ballina, the on-call retained staff would already be manning the station until that fire truck returns, therefore guaranteeing coverage. This would be achieved with a permanently manned fire station in Tamarind Drive. New stations are funded by FRNSW, not councils.
Looking at the big picture. Option A is that Council receives $860,000; however, it must then fund construction of an airport fire station to comply with CASA guidelines. Or Option B: Council receives $500,000 plus land and ensures FRNSW installs a permanently manned fire station servicing the entire Ballina LGA and the airport.
Mr Kelly states that a fire station is ‘… a special purpose building with restricted usage. The property is of little strategic benefit and does nothing to assist Council meet the community’s expectations regarding infrastructure delivery’. A statement made with little insight. A permanently manned station benefits residents by decreasing response times to fires/accidents by seven to 15 minutes. As in Alstonville’s case, it may provide assistance in a medical emergency if the current ambulances in Ballina are already in use. It will benefit all 50,000 shire residents plus 5,000–9,000 residents of the proposed Cumbalum precinct and lighten the burden on volunteer and on-call emergency personnel.
I hope Council staff/councillors are aware of the potential they have when negotiating with FRNSW and savings that can be achieved. We deserve a 24/7 fire station and now is the chance.