17 April 2024

UPDATED: 'Lack of progress' at both Surf Beach and Moruya's future emergency services hubs

| Albert McKnight
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construction work at a beach

The substantive construction works are yet to begin at the Surf Beach emergency services precinct. Photos: Eurobodalla Shire Council.

UPDATED, Wednesday, 17 April: After council noted a “lack of progress” to the Moruya Emergency Services Precinct and Surf Beach Brigade Station, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said it remained committed to delivering both projects.

A RFS spokesperson said their organisation soon expected to receive final confirmation of the Eurobodalla Shire Council’s joint financial contribution with the RFS and NSW State Emergency Services (SES), which would enable design work to start followed by the construction of the Surf Beach station.

“Once that commitment has been received from council, we anticipate the station can be operational during the 2025/26 financial year,” the spokesperson said.

Also, when it came to the emergency services precinct, the spokesperson said the RFS was ready to begin design and then construction of the facility, once council had acquired its preferred site.

“Depending on how long that process takes, will determine whether we will have the facility completed on schedule ahead of the 2026/27 fire season,” they said.

Sunday, 14 April: Eurobodalla Shire Council has taken note of the “lack of progress” at the new Surf Beach emergency services precinct and raised its “strong concerns” with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) about the development of a separate hub in Moruya.

After the Batemans Bay State Emergency Services’ (SES) old headquarters were destroyed in the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires, planning began for a new $3.9 million facility on council land next to the ambulance station in Surf Beach, which is just south of Batemans Bay.

The SES was to share this hub with the Surf Beach Rural Fire Brigade and construction was first slated to start in mid-2022. However, the site is still empty, nearly two years on.

At a recent council meeting, councillors were briefed on the status of the shire’s two future emergency services precincts at Surf Beach and Moruya.

“They took note of work done to date and apparent lack of progress at both sites, delegating general manager Warwick Winn authority to negotiate with all parties,” a council spokesperson said.

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The council is legally required to provide land for the RFS and SES for their district-level facilities. It must also build and maintain facilities for the SES, but only maintain RFS facilities, the construction of which is often funded by the state government.

The preparations for construction at the Surf Beach site finished in July 2023, the spokesperson said.

“Although the RFS were to confirm their plans for the site by the end of 2023, we did not receive their letter of intention until Monday, 3 March, 2024,” they said.

“We are now reviewing that document to ensure sufficient funding and clarity of direction to deliver the precinct.”

An artist's impression of an emergency services precinct

An artist’s impression of the new combined SES and RFS headquarters for Batemans Bay, located alongside the NSW Ambulance Service in Surf Beach.

Meanwhile, the council said it approved land acquisition for the Eurobodalla Regional Emergency Services Precinct in Moruya in October 2022.

This precinct will include a purpose-built emergency operations centre, to free up the Moruya RSL Hall during emergencies, replace inadequate RFS facilities, move NSW Fire and Rescue from flood-prone land, and relocate the Moruya SES from the council’s depot land at Yarragee Road.

The council spokesperson said of the $25 million committed by the state and federal governments for this precinct, $20 million was allocated to the RFS and $5 million to the council. The council’s share will be used to ready the precinct, relocate Moruya SES and prepare a site for Fire and Rescue.

“On 22 February, 2024, council expressed to RFS its strong concerns around the lack of progress in site development given TfNSW [Transport for NSW] processes require significant lead times if we are to provide roundabout access to the precinct from the Princes Highway,” the council spokesperson said.

“However, we have in good faith begun planning and design (including water mains, sewers and pump station) with the expectation RFS will make up any funding shortfall.

“Council has been very clear we have no additional funds to contribute to the regional precinct and RFS should use the other funding for all other onsite infrastructure, including the shared emergency operations centre.”

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Council director of infrastructure Graham Attenborough said that on 22 February, 2024, the council received the RFS’s draft Heads of Agreement document, which outlines the roles and responsibilities of different parties, as requested by the council at a December 2023 meeting.

“We have now provided feedback to the RFS and are working on the finalisation of the document,” he said.

“We are progressing with land acquisition, enabling works (including for the highway roundabout), developing the Moruya SES facility, and Fire and Rescue site works.”

A NSW SES spokesperson said the Batemans Bay and Moruya SES units remained ready and able to assist the community when required.

“The construction of the Batemans Bay unit headquarters is a matter for Eurobodalla Shire Council, who is managing the project and is responsible for providing facilities,” they said.

The RFS has been contacted for comment.

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