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A very excited Iluka community surrounds Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and John and Ann McLean who led the campaign. Image: Contributed

Iluka earns ambulance station

Geoff Helisma |

Sometimes clichés are the perfect fit.

“We did the research, we looked at the information in front of us: the petition, putting forward your case, your argument,” Deputy Premier John Barilaro says to residents who turned out at the Iluka Bowling Club to hear the NSW Government’s verdict on whether or not it would build an ambulance station in the town.

“I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news,” says the Deputy Premier, whose cheeky grin telegraphs his forthcoming words – the crowd reacts to the cliché, good-naturedly groaning ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

“Do you want the bad news first?” he asks.
“The bad news is some other community is not getting an ambulance station.
“The good news is,” Mr Barilaro pauses, pulls a Santa hat out of a bag and, as he dons it, says, “You’re getting a new ambulance station!”

Spontaneous cheering and clapping erupts, faces fill with jubilation.

During his announcement’s preamble, Mr Barilaro said: “When I was here last time there was no doubt that this was an issue this community feels very strongly about, and I said, ‘Good or bad, I would turn up and justify and explain the answer.’

“I think that is what leadership is about, [explaining] why certain decisions have been made.
“I went back to Sydney and spoke with the Health Minister, we did the research…”
Mr Barilaro ensured there was no doubt about the government’s decision.
“This is not an election commitment; win, lose or draw, the only thing that will stop this is another government that doesn’t want to build a station here,” he said.

Afterwards, Mr Barilaro said: “It’s great news today for the people of Iluka, where … Chris Gulaptis … has worked tirelessly with the community and John and Anne McLean and their petition….

“Today, we have announced what will be a multi-million dollar investment: the NSW Government … committing …to provide this community with a service it rightly deserves.”

John and Anne McLean’s campaign to secure an ambulance station began in September 2016 on the day of the Clarence Valley Council election.

On July 19, 2017 they presented Mr Gulaptis with an 11,000-signature petition, which Mr Gulaptis tabled in parliament.

At the announcement, John McLean told those gathered: “I did say once to a few people, ‘I promise you we will get an ambulance station, but we’ve got to keep fighting.’
“I can’t say much more now, but thank everyone for supporting Anne and I on this great journey.”
The day after, Anne McLean said: “John told Chris a long time ago that we will be ‘a thorn in your side’.
“We’re not going to get lazy now; we will push Chris to find out where we stand until we get the bricks and mortar.”