EXCLUSIVE

Nambucca District Rescue Squad's future hinges on tonight

Nambucca District Rescue Squad's future hinges on tonight

The Nambucca District Rescue Squad has a long and proud history of serving the community. For forty years the VRA has been there to help locals during their time of greatest need.

But it's no secret that its volunteer numbers have been dwindling for some time.

"When I joined the VRA (forty years ago), police and ambulance were the only paid emergency workers - everyone else was a volunteer," long-serving Nambucca District VRA Captain Christopher Pearson told the Guardian News in 2018 when he retired.

But now there is another salaried rescue organisation just around the corner from the VRA shed in Nambucca - Fire and Rescue NSW Station 397 Nambucca Heads.

"Membership numbers in the local rescue squad have reached a critically low level and without some new recruits the squad will have to fold," Nambucca VRA President Stuart Holmes told Guardian News in January this year.

At the eleventh hour five new recruits came on board, doubling the existing squad.

But each of those has since had to step back due to work commitments or health concerns, according to Squad Captain Shannon Jeffery.

It's just not viable to have only five members to run a squad.

Squad Captain Shannon Jeffery

They were given an ultimatum by the state body: find new recruits by the end of November or call it a day.

Shannon said they needed 10 active members to be a viable squad and if four or five newbies were to walk into the Nambucca shed tonight for their weekly meeting, they'd be able to continue. But he's not exactly holding his breath.

"If that doesn't happen, we may have to close within the next week," he said.

Either way a decision about the squad's future will be made tonight if quorum is met.

"I'm not exactly happy about it, but we've had a long time to get back online," Shannon said.

With news of the likely impending closure of the Nambucca VRA spreading through town, some locals have been asking what will become of the squad's assets - many of which were bought with community donations.

Volkswagon Spectacular organiser Donna Pell said her event had contributed around $50,000 to the organisation over many years.

I think everyone should know what's happening, and whether those assets will remain in the Nambucca Valley community.

Donna Pell

When Guardian News put that question to the heads of the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association we were told that no answer would be given until after a director's meeting with the Nambucca squad.

"Each VRA squad is an incorporated organisation with their own constitution. We will review that constitution and discuss that tomorrow with them," VRA Director of Services Kim O'Donnell said.

But Squad Captain Shannon Jeffery said their intention was that "anything will be given to like-minded organisations in the community".

He said there are three vehicles owned by the squad, and various tools and rescue gear, including jaws of life, defibrillators and chainsaws. He also thinks the Squad may own the shed at the Nambucca Industrial Estate.

Also in the news