Help for the rescuers
Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) Whitsunday is the only deep water rescue service in the Whitsundays region in Queensland, which covers 13,000 square kilometres of ocean, coastline and a myriad of islands and reefs. It services an area from Cape Gloucester in the north, to Shaw and Thomas islands in the south, and east beyond the shipping lanes of the Great Barrier Reef. Tourist vessels, charter operators, recreational boaties, commercial fishers and government agencies rely on their presence and capabilities throughout the area.
Local Emergency Services also rely on VMR for assistance when marine incidents occur. The higher level of training of VMR Whitsunday's members, as well as its safe and serviceable resources, means when they are relied upon in emergency and life threatening situations. So local , organisations such as school groups, wildlife and other environmental rescue groups and community aid charities such as Rotary and Lions Clubs feel confident working alongside them. They also work closely with Emergency Services organisations such as the SES, Volunteer Coast Guard, Water Police and other Emergency services.
VMR Whitsunday's headquarters in Whisper Bay, Cannondale, is a multifunctional building, part of which is devoted to Marine Rescue operations. It serves as the command base during emergency situations, and the building becomes the control room for annual SAREX (Search and Rescue Exercises) for five local VMR squadrons, Water Police and Emergency Services to train and test preparedness for emergency maritime situations. It's also used by a range of local community clubs and service organisations, as well as being an important venue for weddings, celebrations, funerals, wakes etcetera.
The building was damaged by Cyclone Debbie in 2017, when the cyclone system sat over Airlie Beach and Cannonvale for over 30 hours. During this time, the building was repeatedly blasted with salt water, which caused corrosion and degradation of the roof sheeting, and rusted and loosened fixings. Salt water came in through the roof and its perimeter, and affected the ceiling tiles and electrical wiring and fittings, including ceiling fans, downlights, speakers etc.
Entire sections of the roof need to be replaced to ensure the safety and integrity of the building. Income from function room hire and the licensed bar assists with defraying operational costs but it simply wasn’t enough to cover the necessary repairs.
VMR Whitsunday received a 2017 Repair-Restore-Renew grant for $15,000, funded by John T Reid Charitable Trusts, to replace the corroded and oxidised roof and salt water contaminated ceilings with new materials - providing ongoing availability of the VMR base building and resilience against future cyclones. Thanks to the generosity of suppliers, they were also able to replace all lights and fans, greatly improving the amenity of the building.
While unusually persistent wet season conditions caused the project to be postponed a number of times, it was eventually completed in June this year.
Rodger Wodson, Secretary of VMR Whitsunday, explained the importance of having their headquarters back up and running at full capacity.
"VMR provides marine rescue services for sinkings, groundings, collisions, breakdowns, medical evacuations to the entire public, regardless whether they have a paid membership or not. We also respond to Search and Rescue operations, "MAYDAY" calls, flare sightings and EPIRB activations. This requires a specially equipped rescue vessel, operated by disciplined and trained volunteers and reliable radio communications, and the VMR base is the hub for these operations."