Ballina Marine Rescue Tower. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Ballina Marine Rescue Tower. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

The 'leaning tower' no longer: Marine Rescue gets reprieve

IT HAS taken more than a decade of campaigning but Ballina finally has the funding to replace its "leaning" marine rescue tower.

The State Government announced it would commit $215,000 to the project and Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith said she would contribute a further $200,000 from grant funding.

Ballina Shire Council previously resolved not to put a tender out for construction until the estimated $2.1m cost was fully funded.

Until yesterday, the project was short about $550,000 despite council's $1m contribution, Marine Rescue NSW's $200,000 commitment and the State Government's promise of $350,000 in funding from the Public Reserves Management Fund.

The council had previously said it could get the project underway with additional funding of between $400,000 and $450,000.

Ballina Marine Rescue Tower Commander John Donoghue said it would be a huge relief for volunteers who had been working in "testing" conditions since the "leaning" tower was declared unsafe and closed.

"Up until now, we couldn't tell what vessels were calling up and we'd have to walk outside to look at the bar," he said.

"It has been very demoralising as far as members are concerned."

Mr Donoghue said the new tower would likely attract new volunteers.

"With the old building you couldn't get people to volunteer going up the steps but now I'm sure that it will increase volunteers because it will be such a nice environment to work in," he said.

"When it happens we have to thank the community and the council and the local members because without the community behind us it would have never happened.

"The community support has been unbelievable. It just makes you feel good that we'll finally be able to do what they expect of us."

Ms Smith said she was sure the news would come as a relief to the Ballina community, particularly those who have been campaigning for the tower for more than a decade.

"May the tower lean on no longer, and let the building begin," she said.

The funding announcement is a win for Ballina mayor David Wright who said he had been working towards a new tower for 16 years.

"It's a building that will serve the purpose, not only of marine rescue, but of water protection and of our shark watch," he said.

"With the dredging of the bar and having a marine rescue tower there it will mean that Ballina port is virtually open for business."

Ballina Marine Rescue responds to more than 14,000 radio calls a year.

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