Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis has announced that a preferred site has been found for the proposed Iluka ambulance station.
“Discussions have commenced with the vendor,” Mr Gulaptis said in a media release.
“This is a big deal for Iluka and full credit goes to the local community who helped me convince Deputy Premier John Barilaro to make an exception to the normal minimal population criteria to make this happen,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“There is still a bit of work to be done, but we are getting close.”
The campaign to lobby the NSW Government took real shape on November 6, 2016 when Ann and John McLean gathered signatures for a petition at the monthly Iluka market.
Motivated by having “one of the highest over 60s populations in rural NSW” and a population that “almost doubles” during holiday seasons, the couple, with the help of other like-minded people, had collected 11,000 signatures come June 2017.
The petition was tabled in the NSW parliament in August 2017; in February 2018 Mr Gulaptis outlined his thoughts in a ‘private member’s statement’ in the NSW Parliament.
“[Iluka] deserves to have an ambulance station,” he said, before outlining the reasons why, which included statistics obtained and paid for by Ms McLean through the NSW Government Information Public Access Act 2009 (GIPA Act).
The figures outlined the number of Ambulance NSW callouts to Iluka and the nearby Woombah during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years.
However, the government wanted to implement a first responder scheme (trained volunteers responding to triple 0 callouts).
Mr Gulaptis concluded his member’s statement: “In the short term the establishment of a community first responder may help whilst the fight for an ambulance station continues.”
But the first responder suggestion was rejected by the community in July 2018 when 250 people attended a meeting at the Iluka Bowling Club to hear Ambulance NSW representatives pitch the idea.
Mr Gulaptis said at the time: “Despite what ambulance officials are saying about where Iluka fits in the scheme of things, I will continue to advocate very strongly for an ambulance station in the coastal village, as I believe it is justified.”
On November 8, around 350 Iluka residents beseeched Deputy Premier John Barilaro to make their wish a reality.
“It took less than 30 minutes for the Iluka community to convince” him, Mr Gulaptis said at the time.
Subsequently the NSW Government’s 2019 election commitments listed the estimated $10million project as “commencing prior to March 2023”.
Mr Gulaptis told the Independent, following the 2019/20 budget’s release, that “construction is anticipated to commence in 2020-21, following tendering and awarding of the work”.
“The construction timeframe is estimated to take about two years to complete,” he said.
This week, Ms McLean said she was “happy to hear” that a site had been found, pending negotiations.
“We’ve been kept in the loop all along,” she said, “they’ve been very good with their communication.
“I’ve been assured by the RAIR [Rural Ambulance Infrastructure Reconfiguration] program that the money has been allocated in the [forthcoming] budget and is set aside.”
Mr Gulaptis said finding a suitable site was “a significant milestone in the NSW Nationals in Government’s election commitment to build Iluka’s first ambulance station as part of the $122 million Rural Ambulance Infrastructure Reconfiguration program”.
“The purpose-built station will be designed with input from local paramedics and tailored to the needs of the local Iluka community and surrounds,” he said.