Black spots are in the cross-hairs for Far South Coast Marine Rescue branches, after a NSW Coalition pledge to provide an additional $37.6 million funding for Marine Rescue NSW over the next four years.
“It takes us up to $17.95 million a year, which is more than double what we’ve been existing on,” said Glenn Sullivan, Monaro Regional Operations Manager.
He said the cash injection would make a big difference to the volunteers who form the backbone of the organisation.
“We have to invest in what they’re doing to maintain their safety, and invest in first class vessels and facilities to work in,” he said.
“If the facilities aren’t attractive, safe and modern, people just aren’t going to want to turn up. So it’s also part of the recruitment process”
State regional director Glen Felkinn said dreams can be made reality.
“We’ve had a big bucket list for years that we needed to get to pretty quickly and now it’s within reach,” he said.
“We have 350-odd members in the Monaro region – Batemans Bay is the largest, with 100 members. It’s good to see these guys getting the resources they badly need.”
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Batemans Bay unit commander Richard Blundell said the funds would mean a safer boating environment for his area – and a safer environment for volunteers.
“For us it means an upgrade in our capability, both in our radio infrastructure and here at the base,” Mr Blundell said.
“We’ll be upgrading or refurbishing (our) building to make it more ergonomic and user friendly for the radio operators.
“The primary aim is keeping boaters safe within our region, and we can accelerate some programs … and keep up with technology and user requirements.”
In Bermagui, the prospect of reduced black spots and increased storage are most exciting.
“Between Narooma and Merimbula there’s quite a big expanse of coast which is quite remote, with a number of black spots in it,” Bermagui unit commander Caron Parfitt said.
“It will be great to see safety on those waters improving. We’re also excited about new technology within our base – we’ll be upgrading to the latest technology, and that will provide seamless cover if our base has a power outage.
“We’re also looking for some more storage space, because Bermagui is expanding at the seams at the moment, particularly for our safety gear and some of our search and rescue gear that we’re using.”
Narooma is looking forward to modern radio equipment.
“The injection of funds is going to mean a lot to us,” Narooma unit commander Paul Houseman said.
“We’ve had a number of items on our agenda which we really desperately need – they’ve been on the list but not achievable.
“Core among these is our radio base. While it’s fully functional and does its job, it’s antiquated and almost quaint in it’s effectiveness and we are looking forward desperately to getting our modern, state of the art digital setup in there.”
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Mr Houseman said an extra, smaller boat would also help crews.
“Boat-wise, we have been wanting a second vessel,” he said.
“We currently have a state-of-the-art vessel which sees all our operations out to sea, but because of its size it is very restricted in where it goes in Narooma and in the local lake.
“We’ve been looking at a smaller vessel which can get under the bridge, which can go up the inlet and which can service the local lakes as well.”
Tuross unit commander Blaise Madden said it was an opportunity to give back to the community which has supported the organisation.
“We have the oldest and smallest boat in the whole fleet – it wasn’t due for replacement until 2021-22 and the deputy commissioner has told me that replacement will be brought forward – we have looked forward to this for a long while,” he said.
“In preparation we have constructed and implemented a new permanent berth for the new vessel in the Moruya River. The Moruya and Tuross community have basically paid for that new berth and hopefully very soon we will have a new boat sitting on that new berth.
“We’re looking good for the future.”