THE long-running saga to find a new home for Austinmer Rural Fire Service (RFS) continues with negotiations between Wollongong City Council and the NSW Government for a site at Thirroul bogged-down in a tangle of red tape.
Austinmer RFS has been battling to relocate from their Buttenshaw Drive station, built in the 1970s, into larger premises for almost a decade. That facility has now been closed due to safety concerns.
A suitable piece of land, owned by Sydney Trains, was identified at Thirroul seven years ago. Despite negotiation getting underway in 2016, State authorities and Council have not been able to manage the transfer of the land to allow a start on the new fire station.
State MP for Keira Ryan Park has again called on the NSW Treasurer to divest the government-owned land next to Thirroul Railway Station to Council to allow the desperately needed Austinmer RFS facility to be built.
The facility has been delayed for years because of the NSW Government’s failure to sell the land to Council at below the market rate – despite the RFS being a NSW Government organisation. See The Bulli & Clifton Times: Austinmer firefighters set to sit out another summer in cramped station as bureaucratic stand-off continues
Mr Park said the situation was farcical and he has written to the NSW Treasurer once again pleading with the government to stop putting bureaucratic roadblocks in place that are delaying the construction of the important new facility.
“The community expect and deserve a new RFS facility to be constructed given the challenges at the current site, but all they are getting is buck passing and delay from the Government,” Mr Park said.
“We have the farcical situation where the NSW Treasury wants to charge market rate for the land where the new facility will be located despite the fact that it will be the RFS who are using the facility, it’s the stuff of Yes Minister!
“The NSW Government needs to understand very clearly that these delays are simply unacceptable and I’ll be seeking a meeting with the NSW Treasurer to discuss the urgent need to get this project moving to ensure our first responders have access to a facility that meets the needs of modern day firefighting,” he said.
In a statement, Wollongong City Council said it is working with the RFS District Executive and the local Austinmer RFS with regards to planning for a new facility.
“This work is progressing,” a spokesperson said.
A Sydney Trains spokesperson said it supports Council’s acquisition of the land for the creation of a new station.
“As Council is aware, this land is required to be acquired at ‘market value’ as per NSW Treasury’s guidelines for any land sale between government agencies and local governments,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
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