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Orange Lions clubs and Orange Rural Fire Service want the same HQ. Now council has to pick a winner

February 21, 2023

Facebook/Google Street View.

By Peter Holmes

Tonight, Orange City councillors will be placed between a rock and a hard place. They can either choose to back the Orange Rural Fire Service, or the city’s two Lions clubs - Orange and Orange Canobolas.

But not both.

At the heart of the matter is the former CareFlight hangar on Redmond Place off Bathurst Road near the Homemaker Centre.

It is currently being used by a number of service and community organisations including Rotary, Lions and Probus for meetings, preparation for events, and to store equipment.

But the Orange Rural Fire Service, which currently operates out of a number of locations, is keen to consolidate into one premises for logistical and space reasons.

To this end, it has offered the clubs and groups access to Rural Fire Service properties in Orange. But Canobolas Orange Lions Club has described this offer as “totally unacceptable”.

Meanwhile, Orange Lions Club has said the RFS “does not have any right to push out the service clubs from the hangar".

The decision of who gets what rests with the councillors, who will have to wrestle with competing yet valid interests.

CareFlight lost its contract with the NSW government in 2012. The hangar on Redmond Place was used by CHC, the Canadian company that replaced CareFlight, until 2017. The company Toll then won the contract and opened new premises at Orange Airport the same year.

In early 2019, Orange City Council (OCC) was approached by several service and community groups with a request to use the former hangar at Redmond Place for storage of their equipment, preparation for events and general use.

Council agreed to the request, and according to council papers there are currently seven groups using the facility: Rotary Club of Orange North, Rotary Club of Orange, Rotary Club of Orange Daybreak, Orange Canobolas Lions Club, Orange Lions Club, Orange Farmers Markets and Ladies Probus Club of Orange.

Council papers for tonight’s meeting state: “Each organisation has their own secured sections within the hangar for their exclusive use with the large pad area, board room, facilities and kitchen area shared.

“The groups share the cleaning of the facility and the maintenance of the surrounding gardens and grass area.

“This arrangement has worked extremely well with council having to provide limited assistance and the facility is maintained to a high standard.

“The paddock area is also used for agistment by a lessee.”

In a letter to Orange City Council Brett Bowden, the Canobolas Zone manager for the Rural Fire Service said the Redmond Place hangar “would be very suitable to re-purpose for the use of the Orange Rural Fire Brigade due to its size and location”.

He said it would mean “all equipment currently operated by the Brigade would be centrally located providing an ease of access, increased efficiency and a greater level of care and maintenance”.

“The support role performed by the Brigade is now quite extensive and the equipment that they utilise is located across five different sites, which adds lead time and delays in deployment during times of emergencies,” Bowden wrote to council.

“We seek Council approval to re-purpose the Bathurst Road facility as the base for the Orange Rural Fire Brigade.”

The hangar. Google Street View.

Bowden acknowledged that service clubs were using the hangar, “and in turn, offer the following sites for the use of the service clubs for their storage purposes, which will provide a collective 7 truck bays plus amenities: Current Orange Rural Fire Brigade Station – 202 Margaret Street Orange; Former Spring Hill-Huntley Fire Station – 34 Worboys St, Spring Hill; Former Clifton Grove Fire Shed – The Billabong Clifton Grove.”

Following consultation and site visits, a number of the clubs made submissions to OCC.

Orange North Rotary wrote on June 15, 2022 that it had “inspected the proposed site in Margaret Street and found [it] to be adequate to our needs. We feel there will be little [to] no influence to the way we function. The proposed facility with some more storage sheds will meet our needs”.

It wrote again a day later to OCC: “Hi, the three Rotary groups inspected the site together and we worked out where we could be situated and what would be needed to accommodate us, which was some shelving, though each group had some specific requirements.”

A letter to council from Orange Rotary Daybreak said that “relocating to the premises offered in Margaret Street will have nil effect on what we do and require. There is ample room for what we need and we have inspected the premises to ensure they are satisfactory.”

The club stated that it views “an emergency service such as [Orange RFS] as having priority over a [service or community] group”.

A letter to council from Orange Rotary Club was less strident in its support for the move.

It said it used the hangar to house “a BBQ trailer, spare BBQ, all resources required for our markets, all resources we use for the Great Volcanic Mountain Challenge, all resources required for Sustainable Living Week [and] Public Address System for our Banjo Paterson Festival” as well as historical records and current information “required for the club’s functioning”.

It said the hangar allowed it to “securely manage their assets” and that “without space to store these items they would be dispersed into members garages, which you would understand is not ideal from an accountability and access perspective”.

“Ideally where we are is brilliant, but do understand the challenges you face with this decision.”

In its submission, Orange Canobolas Lions Club said that to require the groups to vacate the hangar would “lead to great inconvenience for these occupiers, not to mention the effect this removal will have on the services each provides to the community.

“We understand the Rural Fire Service has at least six premises in the Orange area for their exclusive use and occupation.

"Unlike Lions clubs and other community service type bodies, the RFS is funded by the state government for the vast majority of their requirements.

“With great respect to the RFS and the services it provides, we believe both the RFS and the service clubs presently occupying the hangar would be less inconvenienced and far better off if funding could be sought by the RFS from the state and possibly the federal government for the construction of premises, tailored to the more precise needs."

It said that should council back the RFS submission, “where will that put our club, given that the property offered to us by the RFS is totally unacceptable”.

“We strongly urge the council to maintain what we now have.”

The Orange Lions Club, meanwhile, said: “Over 64 years of operation in Orange, our club has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of facilities to the city of Orange, its hospital and its people ...

“Without the service clubs, all councils would struggle to provide all the wonderful facilities in their cities.

“The RFS is a fully funded government operation, and as such does not have any right to push out the service clubs from the hangar.”

Who should get to use the hangar?

  • Orange Rural Fire Service

  • Service clubs and community groups

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