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State Government hits back at Hedland Marine Rescue claims of possible closure over dilapidated base

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
Port Hedland Volunteer Marine Rescue Commander Zac Slaughter. Alexander Scott
Camera IconPort Hedland Volunteer Marine Rescue Commander Zac Slaughter. Alexander Scott Credit: North West Telegraph/RegionalHUB

A State Government spokesperson has hit back at claims Hedland Marine Rescue could close as a result of a structurally unsafe base, and insisted the $2.7 million price tag could be slashed five-fold.

In an open letter to stakeholders earlier this month, the group made a desperate plea for industry and government support in rebuilding their 117-year-old base of operations.

In the letter, PHVMR commander Zac Slaughter said the volunteer-run group had, for six years, been pleading for funds to replace their McKay Street base, which in 2020 was found to be “uninhabitable” by a certified structural engineering inspection.

He also said should funds not be committed soon, the group could close down, with all responsibility for rescue operations to be coordinated from Perth.

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In a statement to the North West Telegraph, a State Government spokesperson rubbished Cmdr Slaughter’s claims the group would close, and the cost forecast put forward by the group.

Hedland Volunteer Marine Rescue commander Zac Slaughter says the 116 year old facility is unsafe.
Camera IconHedland Volunteer Marine Rescue commander Zac Slaughter says the 116 year old facility is unsafe. Credit: Sam Jones / North West Telegraph/RegionalHUB

“Marine Rescue Port Hedland is not going to close,” the statement said.

“DFES recently engaged an engineer to inspect the group’s administration and training office at the request of the local commander.

“The engineer’s report was presented to DFES on Friday, 3 March, and made it clear that the building, in its current state, was unsafe and could no longer house the group.”

The statement said since receiving the report, the State Government was “committed” to building a new facility for the group.

“We have already requested an indicative quote for a replacement headquarters for marine rescue in Port Hedland, which suggested a new headquarters will cost less than $450,000,” the spokesperson said.

“DFES has already budgeted more than $700,000 over this financial year and the next for the construction of a new facility.

“The suggested figure of $2.7 million is for a design proposed by the group that is not endorsed by DFES.”

But Cmdr Slaughter said the $450,000 price tag provided was “laughable”.

“Let’s be honest, $450,000 doesn’t get you a lot in the Pilbara. You could barely build a family home, let alone a specialist facility with essential features needed to save lives,” he said.

“For that quote, they engaged a Perth shed builder and I think they really haven’t thought through the cost of doing business in the North West. It’s really not enough.

“We also weren’t engaged with once for that plan.”

Despite the State Government’s claims the $2.7m facility was not endorsed by DFES, a letter of support from DFES Executive Director Corporate Service Richard Burnell sent to the Building Better Regions Fund in February 2022 called for $2m in funding for the project.

Mr Burnell said DFES would provide $700,000 in funding, contingent on the $2m funding being allocated through the BBRF.

“The Volunteer Marine Rescue Service Capital Grants Committee has re-confirmed the Port Hedland facility replacement is a critical priority infrastructure project because of the age and deteriorating condition of the building located in Western Australia’s ‘cyclone alley’,” the letter said.

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