NSW Member for Murray Austin Evans has conceded gaining a dedicated Ambulance NSW station in Tocumwal will be ‘‘difficult’’, but he said he is prepared for the challenge.
During a recent visit to the Southern Riverina — his first since being elected to the role in October — Mr Evans vowed to help the local community lobby for the station.
He said it was one of the issues raised during a meeting with Berrigan Shire Council.
‘‘Berrigan Shire doesn’t have it as a high priority, but it is certainly something that I will be considering,’’ Mr Evans said.
‘‘The best thing myself and council can do is approach Ambulance NSW to lobby for a station.
‘‘According to the 2016 census figures the population of Tocumwal was over 2700, however it’s estimated that number doubles during the summer months at peak tourist times.
‘‘That’s the biggest thing we’ll approach Ambulance NSW with; the fact that during summer there are over 5000 people in the one spot.
‘‘Tocumwal is also a hotspot for recreational activities, watersports, gliding and the aerodrome, plus you can include Strawberry Fields as another big reason (we need an ambulance station in the town).
‘‘On top of that Fire & Rescue NSW are required to act as first responders and it’s too much pressure on them.’’
Tocumwal’s NSW Fire & Rescue brigade members are classified as ‘first responders’ and can administer medical treatment if required, but the nearest fully trained paramedics are based in Finley or Cobram.
On the Tocumwal community’s wish list for a number of years, a new push for a dedicated ambulance station in the town was instigated in late September.
It was raised at a public meeting regarding the future use of the former Tocumwal Bowling Club building.
At that meeting, Murray Haynes said as the biggest expanding town in the shire, it was ‘‘about time’’ Tocumwal had its own ambulance station and paramedics.
He said relying on a service located outside the town was concerning, and questioned how first responders would be able to respond to a medical emergency if there was a large fire already burning.
While the Bureau of Health Information says paramedics from the Finley or Cobram bases could respond ‘‘within 10 minutes’’, locals say a Tocumwal ambulance station and locally based paramedics would offer greater peace of mind.
Mr Evans said it is this response time which may make the efforts to get a Tocumwal station more difficult.
He said similar reasons have been used to deny a dedicated station in Darlington Point, an area he served as former Murrumbidgee Shire mayor.
‘‘If you look at Darlington Point, is has a population that could warrant a station, however because it’s close to Griffith and Coleambally, which both have an ambulance stations; it’s viewed that there’s no point,’’ Mr Evans said.
‘‘With Tocumwal being so close to Finley, Ambulance NSW doesn’t see Tocumwal as a high priority to distribute resources.’’
Tocumwal Chamber of Commerce and Tourism president Sergio Redegalli said there is concern across the region that a Tocumwal ambulance station would replace another in the region, but he said it should complement the vital service provided locally.
‘‘We’re not trying to say to Finley and Berrigan that if we receive a station then you’ll lose your station,’’ Mr Redegalli said.
‘‘This issue has being going on for too long now, and we won’t stop until we get a station.’’