More details have been revealed about where the long-awaited and long-overdue $11 million St John Ambulance hub will be built. Reporter Kelly Makiha talks to those behind the development and St John about why they desperately need this.
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The construction of an $11 million new ambulance hub in Rotorua will employ 120 local builders and contractors and will be finished by April next year.
The hub will be built on Te Ngae Rd at the site previously occupied by Placemakers and is being developed by R & B Property Group in Rotorua.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment announced $11m of funding a month ago as part of its shovel-ready projects, which means the development can be fast-tracked. R & B Property Group managing director Ray Cook said he bought the 14,000sq m former Placemakers site and subdivided it into two developments.
One will be the St John Ambulance station and the other is four 500sq m industrial units for lease or purchase. Two of the four have already been leased but he was not yet able to reveal who the tenants were.
He said a centre emergency crossing to Te Ngae Rd would be installed using traffic lights for emergency vehicles only, allowing the ambulances quick exits from the area.
He said New Zealand Transport Agency, which was working on the Te Ngae Rd upgrade, had agreed to the crossing and the arrangement had been perfect timing while work was being carried out in the area.
Cook said he would employ locals to build the development.
"There will be local direct engagement of approximately 120 professional designers, subcontractors and suppliers with just the St John project."
He said building consent and resource consent had now been issued by the Rotorua Lakes Council for both parts of the development.
The new St John station will be finished by April and the industrial units in December.
St John district operations manager Jeremy Gooders said the build would allow staff to move its people out of its old, rundown building. "The application for the grant was made by R & B Consultants on behalf of St John, as funding challenges had meant a significant delay for this project. We are excited to be able to move to a new, fit-for-purpose ambulance station, which is great news for the people of Rotorua."
The ambulance hub will have modern facilities for emergency ambulances to respond from, training areas, as well as staff amenities and offices.
St John community programmes such as health shuttle services and first aid training will stay at the existing Pererika St site.
Fundraising is under way for another station in Fairy Springs, which will enable faster ambulance response times for the people of Rotorua, and money previously raised for Te Ngae Rd will be allocated towards that project, Gooders said.
"The grant will cover the whole cost of the build, however this does not change St John's overall funding position and the significant challenges we continue to face. St John has historic and long-standing funding issues, which have been exacerbated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and in June we announced a $30m cost-saving programme, to offset our increasingly large deficit."
The Ministry of Health and ACC fund about 72 per cent of the emergency ambulance service and the shortfall is made up by emergency part-charges, fundraising and donations.