Former ambulance station belongs to community, says Mayor

A campaign to have the former ambulance station in Wagga Wagga returned to the city for the benefit of the community was launched this week.

Mayor of the City of Wagga Wagga Cr Greg Conkey OAM on Friday (16 July) started the push to lobby the NSW Government to gift the former ambulance station to the city.

The station, located in Johnston Street in the city’s CBD, was closed in 2016 following the completion of the new station in Fernleigh Road.

Cr Conkey said the former station was built by community donations and gifted to the NSW Ambulance Service more than 90 years ago.

He said Wagga Wagga City Council had been advised the purchase price from the State Government could be as high as $1.2 million.

“Now that it’s surplus to State Government needs, I believe it should be gifted back to the community,” Cr Conkey said.

“At the end of the day, the land and building were paid for by the community.

“I therefore don’t see why the community should now have to pay for something they originally gave to the State Government.”

Cr Conkey said the former ambulance station was ideally located within the city’s cultural precinct and would add to the vibrancy of that precinct.

He said there was interest in the site by members of the city’s arts community as well as the business community to provide assistance to start-up businesses.

“There are also many other options that could be considered for the former station,” he said.

Cr Conkey said he is seeking an urgent meeting with the deputy Premier John Barilaro to put the city’s case to have the old station returned to the community.

“I am firmly of the view that the Government has a moral obligation to gift back this building to the Wagga Wagga community …. a building that was generously gifted to the Government in the first place,” Cr Conkey said.

HISTORY OF WAGGA WAGGA’S FORMER AMBULANCE STATION

The Wagga District Ambulance Committee was formed in 1925 at a public meeting called by the Mayor on 11 May. The three principal people behind the scheme were HE Gissing, HP Paull and HC Buckman.

Fundraising started shortly after and the Service started on 18 January 1926 . On 27 March the same year the committee purchased its first vehicle, a Hudson Six.

The Service originally operated as a free service with public subscriptions from a private residence in Simmons Street.

By August 1926 with a State Government grant of 663 pounds and the generous response from the public, the Service was well established with two vehicles. The first car had been paid off and the second partly paid for.

At the close of the financial year ended June 1928, land at the present Johnston Street site had been purchased by the committee for 1300 pounds in the name of the NSW Ambulance Transport Service Board. The committee had a balance of 1000 pounds. A tender for 4993 pounds for the new station was accepted in July 1928 and building started. The final cost was 5500 pounds.

The foundation stone was laid in August 1928 by the Minister for Public Works, Richard Arthur, and on 30 January 1929 the building was opened by the Premier, Sir Thomas Bavin.

Built by Charles Hardy, the building was fully paid for by the committee eight years later in 1937.

A ladies auxiliary was formed early in the history of the Committee, one of the first such auxiliaries for any organisation. The auxiliary made considerable financial contributions to the Service over a number of years.

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