Funding boost for marine rescue tower

FUNDS FOR TOWER: Ballina Marine Rescue’s Commander John Donoghue, Ballina MP Don Page and Ballina mayor David Wright at the announcement of funding for a new tower. Inset: The Northern Star’s front page on Saturday.
FUNDS FOR TOWER: Ballina Marine Rescue’s Commander John Donoghue, Ballina MP Don Page and Ballina mayor David Wright at the announcement of funding for a new tower. Inset: The Northern Star’s front page on Saturday. Graham Broadhead

A NEW Ballina Marine Rescue tower is guaranteed $550,000 from the NSW Government, Ballina MP Don Page announced yesterday.

The announcement has renewed hopes that construction on the tower might start early this year after a previous, unsuccessful appeal for funding from the Department of Police and Emergency Services put the project on ice.

The Public (Crown) Reserves Management Fund came to the rescue, providing $350,000 cash plus an additional $200,000 low-interest loan to Ballina Shire Council.

Mr Page said the tower was vital to the region's boating community, keeping watch over 2300 vessels across the Northern NSW coastline.

"This funding means the radio tower can now be redeveloped and the community will soon have a modern, safe and operational tower," he said.

The construction project, including a new carpark, public toilets and required drainage works is costed at about $2.3 million, with Ballina Shire Council kicking in $1 million ($200,000 was spent on the design) and pinning hopes on an additional $1 million from the Federal Government.

The pressure is now on Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan to deliver that money courtesy of the National Stronger Regions Fund.

It was the only project that Ballina Shire Council applied for in round one of the fund. It is however competing with other council projects across the country for a share of $200 million.

The council will find out in March if it has been successful.

Ballina mayor David Wright said he was "jumping for joy" after yesterday's announcement but cautioned that the project was still reliant on the Federal Government stumping its share of cash.

"We'll have to wait and see in March what the Federal Government does. Hopefully it will get a guernsey. It will be something that everyone will be proud of," Cr Wright said.

Ballina Marine Rescue deputy commander Lorraine Leuckel said volunteers were keen to see work start on the long-awaited new tower.

She and fellow volunteer Joan Hurley were behind a 5000-signature petition last year that called for state and federal funding for the new building. Mrs Leuckel said the community desire was probably a driving force in securing the latest funding.

"We've got to thank the community," she said. "They are right behind us."

Marine Rescue has raised $300,000 since 2005 to fit out the new tower.

Marine Rescue NSW regional co-ordinator Steve Reading said once the tower was built, that cash would fund a state-of-the-art internal fit out.

"The unit itself has been fundraising for many, many years towards this and they have the dollars there ready to use," he said.



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