Marine Rescue Bermagui base refurbishment

Community stories eNews: 31 January 2024

The Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) NSW service has offices along the NSW coast and operate a 24-hour volunteer crew to monitor the UHF maritime channel and be ready to respond to vessels in distress. During the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires, this organisation continued to operate until power went down and volunteers joined with other local emergency services to support an initial evacuation of locals, neighbouring inland communities and tourists in the surrounds.

The Volunteer Emergency Services Fund was an FRRR program focussed on recognising the critical role that local first responders play in the lives of communities, not just in times of disaster, but every day. Funds were available solely for these groups to support their volunteers, enhance facilities or meet equipment needs to ensure future preparedness. For the VMR Bermagui branch, this opportunity aligned to the need to upgrade their facilities to enhance operations.

The Bermagui crew is ideally based in the Wharf precinct of the popular fishing and boating town on the south coast of NSW, however the office set up was not fit to enable effective training and radio monitoring to occur simultaneously. Their original application requested funding to refurbish the internal layout of the building to install a floor to ceiling glass partition to create two separate and fully operational rooms, with new training equipment, air conditioner and a generator. However, they secured alternative funding to cover the building costs, which allowed them to increase the scope of their project.

A variation was approved to allow VMR Bermagui to use the $24,933 FRRR grant, funded by the Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch Foundation, to purchase an air conditioner, generator, three trestle tables, 16 ergonomic chairs, whiteboard, wall cork board, refrigerator, microwave, desktop computer, printer, and software and security packages.

The electrical power generator means the base can now operate as a search and rescue coordination centre (SARCC) during times of emergency and/or crisis. During the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires, the base couldn’t operate after 24 hours as all power in Bermagui was shut down, and their battery back-up system only had the capability of 24 hours emergency operation.

The upgrade has created a fit-for-purpose facility that now meets their operational requirements and has already benefited a range of people. At its broadest, it has, and will continue to, benefit anyone who is holidaying in or passing through Bermagui waters who uses the waters for boating, recreational fishing or requires some form of assistance on the waters. Importantly for the purpose of this grant program, a key benefit is for the current volunteers and all those who will take on that role in the future.

The new spaces include a quiet radio room, with zero background noise to radio transmissions, and capacity to hold training / meetings and discussions simultaneously, as noise interference is now better managed, and the facility has greater capacity to meet future requirements. 

VMR Bermagui’s Grants Officer, Ian Grieg, commented: “Overall, the executive is most proud that we now have a fully capable, modern and well equipped facility that meets our operational needs today, but extends to meeting the communities needs in the future. The facility has a welcoming feel when members of the public come into the facility to interact with us on all matters boating. Additionally, we feel proud that the FRRR and the National Emergency Management Agency’s Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grant supported us so willingly and had trust in us to deliver such a project to the community and our membership.”