St John takes plans to public at Oamaru park

St John staff and volunteers met the public in a corner of Awamoa Park where the emergency rescue...
St John staff and volunteers met the public in a corner of Awamoa Park where the emergency rescue charity organisation hopes to build a new ambulance station. St John has been looking to establish a new base of operations in Oamaru since 2014. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN
St John staked out the footprint of the building it wants to put up in Awamoa Park on Saturday as it welcomed all-comers "inside" to see where and why the emergency rescue charity organisation wants a new ambulance station.

St John rural Otago territory manager James Stewart, of Oamaru, said while those who had approached St John since it began publicising its plans had been "remarkably positive", at the weekend "we have been asked some challenging questions".

He was aware some neighbours would be wary of an emergency service provider moving into the neighbourhood and St John staff had been asked about not only the footprint of the building, but its proposed height, and the noise of the operation after hours.

"I'd say the number one contention is the traffic on to State Highway 1," Mr Stewart said. "Because the traffic up here is heavy. Unfortunately, the traffic all the way up State Highway 1 is heavy. It's the same road. And we are exiting on to the worst kind of intersection currently. This is an improvement. I do understand local residents' concern around the traffic implications of another vehicle exiting on to this road, but the statistics are around ... in between seven and eight callouts every 24 hours.

An artist's impression of a proposed new St John ambulance station at Awamoa Park, in Oamaru....
An artist's impression of a proposed new St John ambulance station at Awamoa Park, in Oamaru. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
"And not all of those callouts would be lights and sirens - under two of those callouts would be lights and sirens."

At the current Coquet St station ambulances were required to negotiate a busy Eden St parking lot on the way to an emergency, affecting response times.

Mr Stewart said he had spoken to some residents about plans to plant native bush around the building as well as using "naturally blending colours".

"Certainly, no big red shed on the side of Awamoa Park," he said. "A building that blends into the landscape around it and sticks out as little as possible.

"People are asking us about a `plan B' and we are flexible in terms of if this site is unsuitable for whatever reason, including public feedback. It's not a world-ender for us. I'm sure we will be able to find another site that potentially will not be as suitable.

"We just want the opportunity to serve the Oamaru community as effectively and efficiently as possible, which we can do from this site. If the community isn't happy, we will move to another site. And we will be able to provide an adequate service from another site. But this is the best site that we can find."

After starting to look for a new site in Oamaru in 2014, St John began a public information campaign about its proposal to build in the corner of the park in Wansbeck St in May.

At least eight sites were investigated and the 3000sqm section of Awamoa Park emerged as preferred.

Architectural concept plans were drawn up and taken to the Waitaki District Council.

It was hoped public consultation and the granting of a resource consent would occur this year, as St John documents show an aspiration to complete the project by the second quarter of 2021.

At the first public meeting, a 90-minute information session with a question-and-answer period, St John faced some push-back over the use of the park.

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