Marine Rescue NSW calls for return to Shepherd's Hill

"HURT": Marine Rescue Newcastle's treasurer Graham Silcock and commander Ron Calman outside the Shepherd's Hill Cottage in 2016. Picture: Marina Neil
"HURT": Marine Rescue Newcastle's treasurer Graham Silcock and commander Ron Calman outside the Shepherd's Hill Cottage in 2016. Picture: Marina Neil

THE Deputy Commissioner of Marine Rescue NSW, Dean Storey, said it would be “in the best interests of community safety” for Newcastle City Council to reverse its decision to terminate the local unit’s lease on Shepherd’s Hill Cottage.

Mr Storey said he reacted with a “mixture of surprise and disappointment” when he received a letter from a council lawyer this week, informing him that the lease was to be terminated on September 20, almost two years early. 

Marine Rescue Newcastle had been based in Shepherd’s Hill Cottage since 1997 until storm damage forced the unit out in 2015. Since then, the unit has had a number of temporary bases, waiting to move back into the cottage overlooking the sea. 

“We’ve been struggling along for two and a half years and talking in good faith with council about what is the unit’s home at Shepherd’s Hill,” Mr Storey said.

In its letter, the council said in repairing the cottage, “the best heritage outcome” involved removing “non original components”, which included part of the unit’s leased area. The letter said the cottage’s future use was yet to be determined.

Despite his reaction to the letter, Mr Storey said he wanted to “clean slate the situation” and continue talking with the council about returning the unit to the cottage.

“Our priority and our hope is that we can work with council to sort this out,” he said. “It’s up to council to overturn the decision, it’s in the best interests of community safety.

“Operationally, the service needs to be up on Shepherd’s Hill.”

The Commander of Marine Rescue Newcastle, Ron Calman, said he was “very hurt” by the council terminating the lease early, and some of the unit’s 35 volunteers were questioning, “Are we wanted?” 

The unit is currently based in a hall at Warabrook, “which is not where we want to be, because we’re a water operation”.

“You don’t usually see [Marine Rescue] bases so far inland; our charter is saving lives on the water,” he said.