MONEY NEEDED: Pictured in front of the aged, leaning Ballina Marine Rescue tower in February is Labor’s Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord, former State Election candidate for Ballina Paul Spooner and Ballina mayor David Wright.
MONEY NEEDED: Pictured in front of the aged, leaning Ballina Marine Rescue tower in February is Labor’s Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord, former State Election candidate for Ballina Paul Spooner and Ballina mayor David Wright. Luke Mortimer

Ballina Marine Rescue ordered to abandon leaning tower

MARINE Rescue Ballina's "leaning tower" will shut its doors on Monday, after the boss of Marine Rescue NSW decided it was too dangerous for volunteers.

In a letter to Ballina Shire Council, Commissioner Stacey Tannos said he had ordered members of the Ballina unit to "cease operations from their radio tower".

"This is not a decision I have taken lightly but one that is unavoidable," he wrote.

"The condition of the tower has raised work health and safety concerns for some time, leading to council's most welcome decision to replace the ageing building with a new, purpose-built unit base and radio facility.

"However following recent serious incidents involving injury to two members, it is untenable to require our volunteers to continue operating in this environment."

SOME BACKGROUND READING:
JAN 2015: State government plays Scrooge over marine tower funding
JAN 2015: Onus is on Federal Govt to deliver on Ballina tower
OCT 2014: Thousands sign petition for new Ballina Marine Rescue tower
SEPT 2013: Saffin's election promise of $750,000 for Ballina Marine Rescue tower
AUG 2013: New designs for Marine Rescue tower are revealed by council

In one incident, a volunteer was forced to have a hip replacement after falling a "considerable distance" from the steep, narrow ladder.

Another member was hit on the head by a "heavy article" sliding off a desk which, "due to the building's list, is not level".

Ballina unit commander John Donoghue admitted there was no other option but to close the tower.

He said the radios would be moved into the nearby training building, but it does not have views of the dangerous Richmond River bar.

"We won't be able to see the ocean or the beaches," he said.

"It's a rather dangerous move (to close the tower) as far as the public is concerned, because our volunteers won't actually be able to see boats going over the bar," he said.

"We'll be relying on a camera on top of the tower, but obviously that's not ideal."

Ballina mayor David Wright said the decision to close the tower could force the State or Federal governments to come to the party with extra funding for the new tower.

"I have been on the phone to the Premier (Mike Baird) about this issue," he said.

"We'll be sending all of the information to his office and we'll see what comes of that."

What's needed for a new tower

Total cost of the tower is $2.1 million, excluding the fit-out, which Ballina volunteers have fundraised to pay for.

So far:

  • Ballina Shire Council has set aside about $1 million for the new tower.
  • The State Government has committed $350,000.
  • Marine Rescue NSW will contribute in $200,000 in 2016/17.
  • The Federal Government has not provided any funding for the facility.


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