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Community & Business

6 April, 2022

SES HQ open

After being postponed twice, the new SES headquarters in Gilgandra was officially opened over the weekend.

By Emily Middleton

The ‘state-of-the-art’ facility was officially opened by Gilgandra SES unit commander Geoff Kiehne, Gilgandra Shire Council mayor Doug Batten, and NSW SES director of finance Daniel Crocco. Beginning with a Welcome to Country, Uncle Ralph Naden and his dancers also performed a smoking ceremony, where attendees were invited to participate.

The new headquarters will not only benefit the SES, but the entire Gilgandra community and district. The new facilities will be able to support the community during times of emergency, with crews who are prepared for any situation. Mayor Doug Batten said the new headquarters is something the community can be proud of.

“What we are looking at is an asset worth somewhere in the vicinity of $825,000 of which the Gilgandra community, through council, has contributed $400,000. That figure stresses the respect and need we have for our volunteer base, SES volunteers and their importance to our community.

The SES are visible in the community, we really don’t appreciate the contribution they make and the sacrifices they make to provide that service,” said mayor Batten.

“I look at that old shed, the ‘dunny shed’, and I think of Allan Gibson, Mike Foran, and Boyd Blackman, who for years persevered and maintained a volunteer base around that horrible facility. It’s wonderful to be here; the [great] presentation of this place is done by the volunteers, who have really taken ownership [of the shed],” said mayor Batten.

SES director of finance asset and business services, Daniel Crocco said he takes great pride in handing over the truck and opening the shed.

“The storm trailer and the medium rescue vehicle are state-of-the-art vehicles. They are a part of the $116-million-dollar 10-year commitment by the NSW government to ensure these volunteers are not just well-equipped but well trained and well prepared for floods, storms and other rescue activities that may occur,” said Mr Crocco.

The local headquarters has been a long time coming. Mr Kiehne said the new shed was part of his four goals when he was selected as unit commander four years ago. He laughed in his speech about how often he was reminded to get the headquarters built early in his tenure, especially by mayor Batten. However, the new building and vehicles would not have any use if it wasn’t for the volunteers. Volunteers are the SES’s “most valuable asset”.

“Gilgandra is known as a town of volunteerism,” said Mr Kiehne.

“When the pagers go off at seven o’clock at night, it’s the volunteers that make the truck go, and without those volunteers we would go nowhere. Without the unit members, the unit ceases to exist,” he said. Over the past year volunteer numbers have significantly increased.

“I used to lay awake at night thinking I hope the pagers don’t go off because I knew our volunteer numbers were stretching, but now I go to sleep and I know that when the pager goes off four, five, six people turn up to the shed probably before I get there,” said Mr Kiehne.

“It’s extraordinary that we always have the numbers to roll out that truck.”

Mr Kiehne was extremely thankful of the Gilgandra Shire Council and their support.

“When I hear of the experiences of other units and their lack of any real support from the local government, like where you have to fight to get a lawn mower, Gilgandra Shire Council has been just brilliant.”

The presentation was followed by an award ceremony and a community barbeque. Gilgandra SES member Mark Ryan was presented with a national medal for 45 years of service to NSW SES. His long service award was celebrated with his family by his side, and the community congratulated him for his hard work and dedication.

Children and adults alike were welcome to look at and engage in demonstrations of specialist equipment. Other local emergency services, NSW Fire and Rescue, NSW Ambulance, Rural Fire Service, Coonabarabran Volunteer Rescue Association and police highway patrol also joined in the open day activities. Many SES members and officials, also travelled from across the state to support the unit.

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