Two-and-a-half years after the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires swept through the South Coast, construction is set to begin on new headquarters for the Batemans Bay State Emergency Services (SES).
The unit’s old headquarters just south of the town were razed by the bushfires, but planning has been underway to build an upgraded facility.
The valued volunteers won’t be alone in the new space, which they will share with the Surf Beach Rural Fire Brigade.
“We’re very much looking forward to seeing construction materialise and even more excited for the build to conclude and for us to have a permanent home,” NSW SES Eurobodalla local commander Mike Day said.
He thought the idea of sharing the space with the fire brigade and being near the ambulance station was “awesome”.
“It opens the door for joint training and that just has advantages for everyone,” he said. He added that it would build interagency relationships, add skills and create connections between the members.
Mr Day said early on the morning of 31 December 2019, the SES received word there was a particularly bad fire risk, so the volunteers evacuated critical equipment from their old headquarters into a safer location in town.
Volunteers gathered at the facility to discuss the situation later that day, but then the fire reached the outskirts of the premises.
While it was put out, the radiant heat resulted in fire inside the premises and the headquarters were destroyed.
Mr Day said the mood at the time was “a little sombre”, but the volunteers were happy they could assist the community during the disaster with the equipment they evacuated early on New Year’s Eve.
He said during the bushfires the SES volunteers cleared roads of fallen trees, helped manage the evacuation centres and assisted with RFS logistic jobs “in support of those wonderful volunteers”.
The new $3.9 million facility will be built on the Eurobodalla Shire Council’s land next to the ambulance station in Surf Beach. Construction will begin this July, starting with clearing and earthworks.
Members of the Batemans Bay SES have been operating out of a temporary facility since the bushfires. Mr Day said the new facility would mean a lot to the 44 volunteers, who have continued their critical work protecting the community.
“Our volunteers have played a crucial role during multiple flood and storm events,” he said.
“This new facility will provide a fit-for-purpose, modern facility for our training and emergency response.”
The location will provide easy access to the major road of George Bass Drive and the facility has been designed to provide safe storage for vehicles and equipment, along with spaces for emergency response training and community awareness programs. It will also have the latest in communications capabilities.
The project has been funded by the SES and NSW Rural Fire Service, with contributions from Eurobodalla Council.
The council’s director of infrastructure and local emergency management officer Warren Sharpe OAM said councils were required to provide land for emergency services.
“Co-locating emergency services where possible makes obvious sense in terms of sharing facilities and ensuring rapid, coordinated responses,” he said.
“This land in Surf Beach beside the NSW Ambulance headquarters was always the right place for a combined facility and the council is very pleased to be able to make it available.”
The council said planning was continuing for the regional emergency management precinct slated for Moruya, with Public Works Advisory engaged in identifying suitable land for an emergency operations centre and co-located emergency services.
Mr Day thanked the Far South Coast RFS and council for their cooperation. He also thanked the fire service for “everything they did” on New Year’s Eve 2019.